Friday, May 27, 2011

The Esoteric Wordsmyth


Matronym pronounced \MA-truh-nim\ From Latin metr- (mother) + Greek -onym (name, word). A name derived from the name of a mother or maternal ancestor. Also metronym.

It's easy to see that the terms maternal, maternity, matron, and matrimony have something to do with the sense "mother" and are related to today's word but what could metropolis, material, matter, matriculate, and matrix have in common with them? A metropolis is, literally, a mother city; matter and material derive from Latin materia, woody part of a tree, its source of growth; one matriculates to what is to be an alma mater; and matrix comes from Latin matrix, a female animal kept for breeding. All of these terms are ultimately offsprings of the Indo-European root mater-.

‘Then there was Stephanie, the cow, contentedly chewing her cud in the pastures at Ottawa's experimental farm until along came Stephanie, of the engendered human variety, to object that she considered it `offensive' to have to share her matronym with a cow. So -- presto! -- faster than you can say `tax cut,' the farm's director announced that henceforth all cows will be called by gender-neutral names like Poopsie or Moo or’

 Ian Hunter; Free Speech Depends On What You Say; National Post (Canada); Jan 13, 2000.

‘I know a few people who have gone for the lottery approach, naming all the children after the first, who gets the patronym or the matronym depending on its sex. This is quite neat, as no one can blame anyone else later on in life.’

Serena; Modern Manners: Your Cut-out-and-keep Guide to Surviving the Minefield; Independent (London, UK); Nov 14, 1998.


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