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HOI POLLOI

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HOI POLLOI

Postby Dr. Goodword » Mon Mar 13, 2006 12:18 am

• hoi polloi •

Pronunciation: hoy-pê-loy

Part of Speech: Noun, mass (no plural)

Meaning: The masses of people, ordinary folk, the Plain Janes and Joe Sixpacks of the world who live life in the slow lane.

Notes: It is common in English to refer to the masses as the hoi polloi even though, as today's History will show, hoi means "the" in Greek. The hoi is not redundant in English because hoi does not mean "the" in English; it is simply the first syllable of a word that should be spelled as one. When we borrow a word from another language, the grammar of that language does not come with it. The fact that hoi means "the" in Greek is as irrelevant to English as the fact that the al in algebra means "the" in Arabic.

In Play: Resist the temptation to confuse today's word with the adjective, hoity-toity "pretentious, affecting gentility". Hoi polloi is slightly less deprecating: "Tommy Beamer drives around in his hoity-toity BMW just to impress the 'hoi polloi' like us." Hoi polloi is often used as a contrast to individualism: "Biff Wellington likes to wear a tie to work to distinguish himself from the hoi polloi."

Word History: Today's word is the Greek phrase hoi polloi "the many," where polloi is the plural of polus "many". This is the same word we use as the prefix poly- in words like polyglot "speaker of many languages" and polygon "figure with many angles". The same root provided Latin plenus "full" lies at the base of English plenty. This root also came directly into English as full and, with a suffix -k, emerged as another word meaning "hoi polloi"—folk. (The voice that rose above the hoi polloi to suggest today's Good Word belongs to Riutaro F. Aida, a Senior Lexiterian in the Agora.)
Last edited by Dr. Goodword on Mon Mar 13, 2006 11:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Brazilian dude » Mon Mar 13, 2006 11:54 am

When we borrow a word from another language, the grammar of that language does not come with it. The fact that hoi means "the" in Greek is as irrelevant to English as the fact that the al in algebra means "the" in Arabic.

I couldn't agree more, Doc.

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Postby Huia Iesou » Mon Mar 13, 2006 4:39 pm

I feel rather ridiculous at not recognizing it at once. But then, I suppose it's good that I don't read Greek in transliteration.
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Postby KatyBr » Mon Mar 13, 2006 7:04 pm

I suppose you could call the hoi palloi: sans-culottes also, altho' even the royals are more inclined to wear longer pants these days.

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Postby Andrew Dalby » Tue Mar 14, 2006 9:57 am

I don't know which royal pants you have in mind, Kt. The middle-aged and younger British royals seem to spend quite a lot of their time sans culottes ...
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Postby KatyBr » Tue Mar 14, 2006 11:31 am

How times have changed. It used to be only the hoi polloi spent their time in long pants. I was referring to ceremonial wear. "Course men Used to wear dresses.... (togas) (robes) but that was way back

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Postby Bailey » Wed Mar 22, 2006 12:28 am

I just noticed this thread, then overheard on Boston Legal:
William Shatner, the token (and appropriately crazed Republican) "Morales are what the elite impose on the hoi polloi to keep them in line."

I will not go as far as to use the classic "you people" but we are better right? We have better educations, we have better and more class. The hoi polloi must be kept in check.
>do you think they know I'm kidding?<

Today is the first day of the rest of your life, Make the most of it...
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