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Hapax Legomenon Lovers


Pyrotex
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I came across a new word (phrase) today on the NPR Website.

 

It is "hapax legomenon" -- or just "hapax" for short. It is: "an expression that only occurs in a single place in the language, like wardrobe malfunction, Corinthian leather or satisfactual."

 

Wikipedia defines hapax as "is a word which occurs only once in either the written record of a language, the works of an author, or in a single text."

 

I never heard of hapaxes before. [is that the correct plural?] But I find the concept fascinating. The NPR article applied this concept to the American Pledge of Allegiance. Two hapaxes occur in the pledge:

"pledge allegiance", and

"under God".

 

Those two phrases occur in just ONE place in the whole (American) English language--in the Pledge of Allegiance! :rolleyes: Wow! Of course, they also occur here in this post because I'm talking about the Pledge of Allegiance, but that doesn't count.

 

It turns out there are lots of hapaxes in our language. One that occurred to me was the word "lieue". It occurs only in the phrase, "in lieue of", meaning, as a replacement for.

 

How many hapaxes can we find? That's the purpose of this thread!

 

Let me hear them hapaxes!

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How about a sentence which only occurs once in the language?

 

Some years back I found myself berating my 4-year-old son for persistently bringing his toys to the tea-table. Today's item was a pull-along toy telephone.

 

I told him: The wheel of your telephone is embedded in the jam!

 

After I'd said it, I realised that it was a sentence which had never before been spoken. It wasn't deliberate - I didn't realise how unlikely it was until after I'd said it.

 

Does that count? :rolleyes:

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... The wheel of your telephone is embedded in the jam!... Does that count? :rolleyes:
Unfortunately, no.

 

The word (two word phrases apparently are also allowed) must occur in WRITING in only one source. It must occur in only one "context" if you will. By assumption, it must be a serious word, an honest ordinary attempt to say something meaningful.

 

So the magrifestibule that I have in my pocket doesn't count either.

 

Apparently, Shakespeare's plays are chock full of hapaxes -- words that occur there and nowhere else in all of recorded English. Chaucer, too.

 

Given that a hapax occurs in only one isolated context, and that context may be in an ancient document, old hapaxes can be very difficult to define!

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...Humpty Dumpty's theory, of two meanings packed into one word like a portmanteau, seems to me the right explanation for all. For instance, take the two words "fuming" and "furious." Make up your mind that you will say both words ... you will say "frumious." ...
source

 

if this is wrong, i'll be frumious. :rolleyes: :cheer: :phones:

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Frumious just might be a fringe hapax. It does occur in all of English in just one place, the "frumious bandersnatch" of the poem, Jabberwocky.

 

However, it is decidedly a made up word. Like the magrifestibule in my pocket.

 

Consider this: the phrase "under God". We never say, gee, I won't vote for somebody who's not under God. Or, the Belgians just voted themselves a government under God. We NEVER use that phrase anywhere else but in the Pledge -- and to tell the truth, nobody seems to know what it really means!

 

Nobody "pledges allegiance" to the King, or to the Assembly of Isle d' Franc. Nobody says that at all. EVER. Except. When saying the Pledge. The phrase appears no where else in all of recorded English. All we do know is that in the mid-19th Century, the idiom (as spoken in backwoods Illinois) "under God" was used in the sense of "God willing", or "if God wills it". But then, what would it mean for "One Nation under God"?? If this is where the phrase comes from, then it makes no sense to attach it to "One Nation". It makes better sense to attach it to "with liberty and justice for all" (God willing).

 

"Corinthian leather". Except for one (or a series of near-identical) automobile ads, this phrase is used nowhere else on the planet ever.

 

Hmmm. I'm getting a bit frumious myself.

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Frumious just might be a fringe hapax. It does occur in all of English in just one place, the "frumious bandersnatch" of the poem, Jabberwocky.

 

However, it is decidedly a made up word. Like the magrifestibule in my pocket. ...

 

silly man; all words are "made up". :phones: i shall argue frumiously that frumious is not "made up" in the sense you imply by your example; it is a portmanteau. also, it appears in the hunting of the snark as well as jabberwocky, but as your definition in the op allowed for occurence within an author's body of work, i think we're good to go on solid grammatical grounds down the middle of the track.

 

from my source:

..."Portmanteau word" is used to describe a linguistic blend, namely "a word formed by blending sounds from two or more distinct words and combining their meanings."[1] The plural form of "portmanteau" may be portmanteaux or portmanteaus.[2]

 

Such a definition of "portmanteau word" overlaps with the grammatical term contraction. As an example of the latter, the words do and not become the contraction don't, a single word that represents the meaning of the combined words. A distinction can be made between the portmanteau and a contraction by noting that contractions can only be formed with two words that would otherwise appear in sequence within the sentence, whereas a portmanteau word is typically formed by combining two or more existing words that all relate to a singular concept which the portmanteau word is meant to describe

Portmanteau - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 

snark or no, i shall be on the hunt now for more hapaxes. (hapaxae?) :rolleyes:

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no point in pointing to specifics from authors already mentioned i suppose. so, off to another paragon of hapax legomenon use. i give you "as-yet-differentially" and "complexidly" from our dear, albeit still-dead, friend mr richard buckminster fuller and his seminal work, Synergetics: Explorations In the Geometry of Thinking.

 

...The human brain is a physical mechanism for storing, retrieving, and re-storing again, each special-case experience. The experience is often a packaged concept. Such packages consist of complexedly interrelated and not as-yet differentially analyzed phenomena which, as initially unit cognitions, are potentially re-experienceable. A rose, for instance, grows. has thorns, blossoms, and fragrance, but often is stored in the brain only under the single word-rose. ...
source
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Not exactly sure where the line is drawn between a phrase that is used only once and a phrase that is only used for one purpose. Do either of these phrases count?

 

ETAOIN SHRDLU

Due to old printing customs, this phrase (the top 12 letters by frequency count in English) appeared by accident often enough in newspapers as to warrant inclusion to a few dictionaries and popular culture references.

 

The quick brown fox...

This phrase is commonly used whenever someone needs to use all the letters of the English alphabet for testing purposes, or as a place holder text in old teletype machines.

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  • 4 weeks later...
"Nother" - locked into the phrase "a whole nother thing".

BTW, Newspeak and the language of Jabberwocky are invented languages - invented for the fiction we find them in. Does that count?

Hmmm... nother is still obviously a variant of "another" which is not a hapax. A redneck variant. And it occurs in other phrases and places. Gimmea nother minute and I'll listem out forya.

 

I would say that an invented language is acceptable. "Twas brillig" is a hapax, because it occurs in English only in one poem or in dialog about that poem.

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BTW, Newspeak and the language of Jabberwocky are invented languages - invented for the fiction we find them in. Does that count?

 

Just to clarify, I was meaning the term "Newspeak", not the full language it represents. If that makes a difference.

 

And I was wondering...is "hapax legomenon" a hapax legomenon?

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Just to clarify, I was meaning the term "Newspeak", not the full language it represents. ...And ...is "hapax legomenon" a hapax legomenon?
AHA! "Newspeak" may indeed be a hapax.

 

But "hapax legemenon" though rarely used, is not itself a hapax. It does not occur just in one place, one source or one phrase. Hapax doesn't mean "rare".

 

The thing that helps me understand it is this: in ancient writings (such as the OT) there are occurrences of words that appear in its native document just one time. One time EVER. Those words are hapaxes. This makes defining the word very very difficult. So, we're looking for words (phrases) that occur just once.

 

But "occur just once" is open to interpretation. It may occur (and be used) in only one context (like "pledge allegiance" in the Pledge of Allegiance). It may have been coined by just one author and used only in one of his/her books.

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I must take issue with at least one of the hapaxes proposed so far:

Those of us old or retro-student-y enough (or … damn that arcane-trivia-expert-belittling Wikipedia ... just read its wikipedia page) recognize the “Wayback machine” as a respelling of the “WABAC machine” Peabody and Sherman used to time travel to the scenes in their 81 (according to wikipedia) episodes appearing on Bullwinkle and Friends/Rocky in the 1950s and ‘60s.

 

Appearing in many English language works with different meaning referring to both imaginary and real machines disqualifies, I think, a word or phrase from hapax status.

 

Or am I wrong? If a Hapax is so catchy it’s repeated, even becomes commonplace, does it lose its hapax status, becoming a mere nonce? Or something else?

 

Here’s my offering, from the D. Harlan Wilson’s 2007 novel Dr. Identity, or Farewell to Plaquedemia: “quixotic douchebaggery”. In context:

Walden
sucks. The mass of men don’t lead lives of quiet desperation. They lead lieve of quixotic douchebaggery.”

This phrase – and I’d wager several others from it – doesn’t seem to appear anywhere but in Wilson’s novel.

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