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Gamut

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Gamut

Postby Dr. Goodword » Mon Oct 07, 2013 10:35 pm

• gamut •


Pronunciation: gæ-mêt • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: The complete spectrum, range, or extent, as to play the gamut of notes in the key of C major.

Notes: Today's Good Word is a combination of Greek and Latin words (see Word History). That may be the reason that it is a lexical orphan, a word without derivational relatives.

In Play: Gamut may be used straightforwardly in sentences like this: "A prism breaks a beam of light into the gamut of visible colors." A rainbow also contains the gamut of visible colors. However, the figurative uses are, as usual, more interesting: "The bull chased Thaddeus the gamut of the field before lifting him up and over the fence on his horns."

Word History: Gamut entered the English language in 1520s. It referred at that time to the lowest note in the medieval musical scale. It was a contraction of Medieval Latin gamma ut from gamma, the Greek letter naming the note below A, + ut "where", the lowest note on the six-note Medieval musical scale. This scale was the forerunner of the 8 note scale with the names do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti, do. The names of the notes were taken from initial syllables in a Latin hymn for St. John the Baptist's Day, running from the lowest to the highest:
Ut queant laxis resonare fibris
Mira gestorum famuli tuorum
Solve polluti labii reatum, Sancte Iohannes.
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Re: Gamut

Postby MTC » Tue Oct 08, 2013 3:07 am

Perhaps the most famous zinger using "gamut:"

"'We might as well go back,' said Dorothy Parker during an intermission of The Lake in 1934, 'and watch Katharine Hepburn run the gamut of emotions from A to B.'"

(http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Dorothy_Parker)
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Re: Gamut

Postby LukeJavan8 » Tue Oct 08, 2013 11:08 am

Love it!
-----please, draw me a sheep-----
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Re: Gamut

Postby MTC » Tue Oct 08, 2013 6:47 pm

"Gamut" is an example of a hybrid word composed of Greek and Latin roots. I'm not sure whether Doc expressly covered this
subject, but it is addressed on Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hybrid_word

Happily for us, "gamut" survived the purge of purists against linguistic miscegenation.
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Re: Gamut

Postby Slava » Tue Oct 08, 2013 9:07 pm

I just missed suggesting this word. Sunday, I read it in an etymological dictionary I'm leafing through and there it was on Monday.

Taking a page out of a certain Agoran's book, I have a proposal for a spawn of this word:

Gamutlich - more or less approaching the concept of running the gamut. Anglicized form: gamutly.
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Re: Gamut

Postby Perry Lassiter » Tue Oct 08, 2013 10:08 pm

Am I correct in saying that "running the gamut" is the most frequent use of the term by far?
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Re: Gamut

Postby Slava » Tue Oct 08, 2013 10:29 pm

Perry Lassiter wrote:Am I correct in saying that "running the gamut" is the most frequent use of the term by far?

I'd say so. I don't really know of any other way I've seen it used, to tell the truth. Other than "the gamut of A to Whatever."
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Re: Gamut

Postby DavidLJ » Wed Oct 09, 2013 1:36 am

I think Slava's gamutlich is wonderful, and tremble that it will jump out at me, with an umlaut, any day. Its wicked henchman gamutlichkeit won't be far behind either.

The invention reminds me of Alvin Toffler's excellent adhocracy. Is there a good word, or a Good Word, for felicitous concoctions of this kind? (They're not quite the same, though. Adhocracy is plumb useful, while gamutlich is a jape of the kudo genre.)

Surely gamutology lurks in the academia of some land grant college waiting to run free across the plains.

My antennae went up for ut as where, but they're still up and waving inquisitively. Http://translate.google.com gives 15 English meanings for "ut," including the "to" which would have been my guess.

By contrast the somewhat erratic http://www.thefreedictionary.com/gamut also offers a very interesting, and at least somewhat plausible, suggestion "[from Medieval Latin, changed from gamma ut, from gamma, the lowest note of the hexachord as established by Guido d'Arezzo + ut (now, doh), the first of the notes of the scale ut, re, mi, fa, sol, la, si, derived from a Latin hymn to St John: Ut queant laxis resonare fibris, Mira gestorum famuli tuorum, Solve polluti labi reatum, Sancte Iohannes]"

On the other hand freedictionary are suckers for the merely plausible, so I've filed this in possibilities section of my brain.

-dlj.
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Re: Gamut

Postby Slava » Wed Oct 09, 2013 12:38 pm

Here's the version of the hymn from the book I mentioned above. You'll notice it's broken down differently.

Ut queant laxis
resonare fibris
Mira gestorum
famuli tuorum
Solve polluti
labii reatum
Sancte Iohannes.

A translation is also provided:

"That with full voices your servants may be able to sing the wonders of your deeds, purge the sin from their unclean lips, O holy John."

As to the meaning of ut, my thoughts on the matter are thus: the beginning of the scale was the Gamma line, so Gamma Ut could have meant something along the lines of "start from here."
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