Wordy Weekly VIII


Latin only this week short article on ‘Why no Greek?’

i) FULMINATE: ‘to rage, berate, bluster, denounce’ – this rather nice, and too little-used word comes from the Latin verb ‘fulmino, fulminare, fulimavi’, ‘to thunder, strike with lightening’. Its related word ‘fulmen, fuliminis’ means ‘thunderbolt’. The verb has moved away from the literal meaning of ‘to thunder’ in a weather (or Jupiter-sent) sense to a more metaphorical sense of ‘thunder’ to describe ‘speaking in an angry, thundering, or excessively assertive manner’. A fine example of ‘fulmination’ by a famous ancient figure is undeniably Cicero in his first speech against Catiline: ‘Quo usque tandem abutere, Catiling, patientia nostra?’ (‘How far, pray, Catilina, will you abuse our patience’).

ii) A Greek Gap: Greek has a letter ‘f’, PHI, ‘f' (fie, fie, what a letter! Sorry!). So, why no derivative this week? Well, there are plenty of derivatives from the Greek ‘F’, but they are transliterated with ‘ph’, not ‘f’, so we can’t offer a Greek derivative for the English ‘f’. I went searching and found the Greek ‘fibla’ and thought of ‘fibula’, but this is only a Greek translation of ‘fibula’ (see Wordy Weekly IV). When we reach the English ‘P’ in this series, it will be a bumper week, with ‘p’, ‘ph’, and ‘ps’ derivatives. So, why is the Greek ‘f’ transliterated more correctly with ‘ph’? Well, there is a theory that PHI was not pronounced so much like our ‘f’ as like ‘p’, but with greater breathing or ‘h’ sound, i.e., that it was more a ‘P-H-‘ sound than an ‘F’. So, sorry Greek, more from you next week.

If you want to learn more about ancient languages and pronunciation, please watch this super video by expert and Greek accent Guru Dr. Philomen Probert.


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