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Postby Dr. Goodword » Mon Feb 04, 2013 12:14 am

• transmogrify •

Pronunciation: trænz-mah-grê-fai • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb

Meaning: To change completely into something utterly different.

Notes: Today's word apparently started out as a joke, but has since lost its humorous tilt. Today it is a legitimate member of the English vocabulary, though the Oxford English Dictionary claims it is "vulgar or humorous"—can't decide which. This verb leaves the door open for an abstract noun, transmogrification which, my spellchecker just informed me, has already been discovered. But several adjectives are also available, such as transmogrificational and transmogrifiable.

In Play: The -mogrify in this word connotes something rather scary, so this word is often associated with a change for the worse: "When Dr. Jekyll took his potion, it transmogrified him into the monster, Mr. Hyde." However, don't be frightened to use it in other contexts; just avoid using it to indicate slight changes: "Cocoons transmogrify caterpillars into beautiful butterflies."

Word History: The best guess yet is that today's Good Word is a humorous mispronunciation of trans- + modify. In fact, the word transmodify exists, and may have been contemporary to transmogrify. The prefix trans- is used in two other words with essentially the same meaning as today's word: transform and transmute, so its appearance in our word comes as no great surprise. It is in fact a Latin prefix: trans- "across, through". It comes from the same Proto-Indo-European source as English through and thorough. It is also the source of English thrill, for in Old English thyrlian meant "pierce (through)". The noun from this verb, thyrel, meant "hole", and ended up in nostril. (This word was originally suggested by Chris Stewart, but when Perry Lassiter suggested it again recently, I decided to rewrite it and propose a different origin.)
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Re: TRANSMOGRIFY - revised

Postby MTC » Mon Feb 04, 2013 8:45 am

Wait, wait! Are we saying transmodify transmogrified into transmogrify, or that transmodify transmodified into transmogrify?

I think I'll have a Vodka Tonic...

P.S. But on second thought this may lead to the "humorous tilt" Dr. G spoke of.
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Re: TRANSMOGRIFY - revised

Postby Perry Lassiter » Mon Feb 04, 2013 9:12 am

But isn't tonic good for what ails you?
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Re: TRANSMOGRIFY - revised

Postby Philip Hudson » Mon Feb 04, 2013 10:38 am

Back in the dark ages (1960s), I worked toward, but did not finish, a PhD in computer science, the new discipline of the day. My employer insisted I get the degree and that I travel constantly at the same time. When he finally saw the conflict, he said work comes first. I first encountered transmogrify at that time. It became one of my favorite words because many computer algorithms turned out to be data transmogrifers. Later, computer programming became a little more logical. By that time, I had moved on to another field. I kept the word.
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Re: TRANSMOGRIFY - revised

Postby MTC » Mon Feb 04, 2013 1:55 pm

Arguably the most sublime embodiment of "transmogrify" is Bernini's masterpiece, Apollo and Daphne. I recommend a Google Image search to get the full effect, short of seeing the sculpture at the Galleria Borghese in Rome.

At the very moment a lust-crazed Apollo is about to catch her, Daphne entreats her father, Peneus:

"'Destroy the beauty that has injured me, or change the body that destroys my life.' Before her prayer was ended, torpor seized on all her body, and a thin bark closed around her gentle
bosom, and her hair became as moving leaves; her arms were changed to waving branches, and her active feet as clinging roots were fastened to the ground—her face was hidden with encircling leaves."

Ovid, Metamorphoses, Book 1, vi
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Re: TRANSMOGRIFY - revised

Postby Slava » Tue Feb 05, 2013 1:23 am

I do hope that the previous GWotD post for this word will remain on the αD main dictionary section. I like both treatments.
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