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Antebellum

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Antebellum

Postby Dr. Goodword » Wed Jun 05, 2013 11:00 pm

• antebellum •


Pronunciation: æn-tee-bel-êm • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: Relating to the period preceding a war. In the US it most often refers to the period prior to the Civil War (1861-1865); elsewhere in the English-speaking world it most often refers to the South African War (1899-1902) or either of the two world wars.

Notes: Because it is literally a Latin, not merely a Latinate, word, antebellum has no direct relatives in English, such as nouns or verbs derived from it. The prefix ante-, however, does appear in quite a few other English words, such as antecedent, antechamber, to antedate, and my personal favorite, antediluvian, referring to something older than the Old Testament flood and Noah, as the antediluvian idea that black cats bring bad luck. Things that go on after a war are, of course, postbellum in nature.

In Play: Even though rowdy Southerners started the Civil War, Americans associate this word with the South before that war: "Many of us picture antebellum southern belles in fluffy dresses and colorful bonnets, sitting on the front porch, while their fathers rock (in the original sense of the word) amiably nearby, sipping mint juleps." Elsewhere, however, this word may be used to refer to either WW I or WW II, so long as the context clarifies which: "After World War II the number of women in the work force did not fall back to antebellum levels."

Word History: This word was simply traced from a Latin phrase, letter for letter: ante "before" bellum "war". Ante and anti "against, opposed to" originate in the same Proto-Indo-European root, ant- "front, forehead". The sense of "in front of" slipped to "opposite" in the sense of living opposite someone, and from there to "opposed to", with the concomitant spelling change of ante to anti. We see ante plainly in anterior and antediluvian "before the flood", but we don't expect it to show up in English as end. Well, antonyms or near antonyms often share origins. English black and French blanc "white" come from the same PIE word, not to mention cold and scald. Bellum "war" has an interesting history, too. It originated as ancient Latin duellum "war", of dubious origins, which poets kept even after it changed to bellum and passed on to French as duel. (Today we thank the postbellum word-watching of Mary Jo Ashcraft-Costigan, who spotted today's Good Word and suggested we run with it.)
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Re: Antebellum

Postby MTC » Thu Jun 06, 2013 7:29 am

With respects to Dr. G's efforts, I find by itself "antebellum" is a fairly boring word; "ante" (before,) "bellum," (war,) case closed. It's "antebellum's" associations that give the word power. "Antebellum" immediately evokes Gone with the Wind, Rhett, and Scarlet just as "Donald Trump" immediately evokes "gadfly," "demagogue," and "bloated buffoon." Sorry, too political! Make that, "'aspirin' evokes 'headaches'," or "'benzene' evokes 'rings'." Better, right? Just a slip.

Likely before ('ante," that is) the novel and the movie "antebellum's" associations were not nearly so strong. Does this observation fall under the umbrella of "sociolinguistics?" (Trying to dignify random musings with an academic gloss.) Regardless, intuitively I feel popular movies have the power to energize words. The limp phrase "failure to communicate" received quite a lift after Cool Hand Luke, for instance. You may find other examples.
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Re: Antebellum

Postby Slava » Thu Jun 06, 2013 12:52 pm

While I agree that the word itself isn't all that exciting, my feeling is that it was chosen for the history of ante-.

Isn't it fun that something that means before can end up meaning posterior? And that black and white share a root? In different languages, but even so.

Antebellum. Has anyone ever come across it, here in the US, used in a phrase other than "Antebellum South"? Say, Antebellum North?
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Re: Antebellum

Postby Perry Lassiter » Thu Jun 06, 2013 1:49 pm

Here in the south, antebellum precedes "house" 99% of the time. Whether it refers to the glorious homes of Natchez or the plantations of S Louisiana, we picture those first. And most older towns have a couple of antebellums mixed in with sprawling Victorians and old homeplaces surrounded by porches or "galleries."
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Re: Antebellum

Postby Slava » Thu Jun 06, 2013 2:00 pm

This is a repeat word, by the way. Here is the first one. It quickly became a discussion on slavery, racism, and who started the war. Good reading, though. I wonder what became of the authors.
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Re: Antebellum

Postby gailr » Thu Jun 06, 2013 7:59 pm

Slava, your link was almost like a look back at a yearbook or old family photo. :wink:
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Re: Antebellum

Postby Perry Lassiter » Thu Jun 06, 2013 9:39 pm

Yeah, I miss those guys.
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Re: Antebellum

Postby damoge » Thu Jun 06, 2013 10:49 pm

anyone have any suggestions as to connections or none between bellum and bella?

Just an interested bystander, I.
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Re: Antebellum

Postby Perry Lassiter » Fri Jun 07, 2013 12:45 am

Bellum est non bella. War is not pretty, though we would grow fond of it were it not so terrible. As to the words...?
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Re: Antebellum

Postby damoge » Fri Jun 07, 2013 9:28 am

war is, as I understand it, downright hell. However, as to the two words, any old geezers in common in their distant pasts?
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Re: Antebellum

Postby LukeJavan8 » Fri Jun 07, 2013 12:03 pm

damoge wrote:anyone have any suggestions as to connections or none between bellum and bella?

Just an interested bystander, I.




Debby
Latin is infinitely complicated: and you hit upon one
area:

There is the verb "bello, bellare. Belior,belari" to make
war; to fight.
Then there is the adjective "bellum, belli' with all its
consequent declensions, a single fight, war, contention,
battle.
And belius, belli, with its declensions, - pretty, good,
beautiful.
And these morphed into various forms in the various
Romance languages derived from Latin.
Bella is heard, probably, most often in Italian meaning
'beautiful' and 'good'.
-----please, draw me a sheep-----
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Re: Antebellum

Postby damoge » Fri Jun 07, 2013 12:18 pm

so there is no pe word that connects them? was wondering if this was one of those cases where opposite meanings came from one source...
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Re: Antebellum

Postby damoge » Fri Jun 07, 2013 12:18 pm

and luke, how goes the world? is your world still intact?
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Re: Antebellum

Postby Slava » Fri Jun 07, 2013 12:35 pm

damoge wrote:so there is no pe word that connects them? was wondering if this was one of those cases where opposite meanings came from one source...
Sorry, no PIE. No cake, either.

War bellum is from dŭellum, whereas pretty bella is from be nulus which ties in with bonus.

Hope that helps.
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Re: Antebellum

Postby damoge » Fri Jun 07, 2013 12:59 pm

ok, and clearly no cigar.
Thanks, all, for the clarification...

I shall be null for the rest of the day...
a bonus for all around me.
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