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Postby Dr. Goodword » Sat Sep 10, 2005 10:46 pm

• catastrophe •

Pronunciation: kê-tæs-trê-fee

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A calamity, cataclysm, a disaster of enormous proportions, involving great destruction or suffering. 2. A fiasco, an enormous falilure.

Notes: The important point to keep in mind is that the final [e] on this word is not silent as final [e]s usually are in English. The word has an adjective, catastrophic, which may be extended to catastrophical. Simply add -ly to the latter for the adverb. The verb, catastrophize, is a recent addition to this word's family with a rather peculiar meaning: "to characterize or interpret as disastrous". It is easy to catastrophize the results of the greenhouse effect and ozone depletion.

In Play: It is a cruel irony that the United States must remember one of its greatest catastrophes in the midst of an even greater one. The attacks on the US on September 11, 2001 by Muslim extremists were one of the greatest nonwartime catastrophes in US history. The current aftermath of hurricane Katrina in southern Mississippi and Louisiana certainly ranks among the greatest natural catastrophes of US history. All of us at will say a prayer for the victims of both these catastrophic events today.

Word History: Today's word is Greek katastrophe "an overturning, ruin, conclusion", transliterated letter for letter from Greek. The Greek word comes from katastrephein "to ruin, undo", a verb based on kata- "down, against, apart" + strephein "to turn". While we were tracing Greek words, we also copied strophe "stanza, group of repeated lines in poetry", without the prefix kata-. One final word from this root is strobos "whirling, whirlwind", which we at least Anglicized into strobe for strobe light.
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Postby Flaminius » Sun Sep 11, 2005 6:31 am

I have one more word. Is boustraphedon not a cognate? It is interesting to note that the word has a final silent "e" in French.
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Postby mbx_pdx » Sun Sep 11, 2005 2:05 pm

Is it wild fancy to also think that "Catastrophe" and "Disaster" both have something to do with the Ancient Greek propensity for seeing bad things in the stars? I don't know much Greek at all, but both words seem to contain "Astro" or "Aster," meaning "star." Perhaps, as is "Disaster," "Catastrophe" might be an astrological term as well?
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Postby M. Henri Day » Mon Sep 12, 2005 3:57 pm

mbx_pdx wrote:... I don't know much Greek at all, but both words seem to contain "Astro" or "Aster," meaning "star." Perhaps, as is "Disaster," "Catastrophe" might be an astrological term as well?

«Disaster», of course, is no problem, but there is no evidence for reading kata - strophe as kat - astron. Moreover, how would one then explain the final «phe» ?...

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