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Magus

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Magus

Postby Dr. Goodword » Sat Dec 21, 2013 1:47 am

• magus •


Pronunciation: may-gês • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A member of the ancient Persian priestly caste responsible for Zoroastrianism, founded by Zarathustra (Greek Zoroaster), some time between 1200 and 1500 BC in what is today Iran. 2. A person of great wisdom and magical powers.

Notes: As we approach the holiday season, Christians will be reading about the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. According to the Book of Matthew, the newborn child was visited by several magi (may-jai), usually assumed to have been three in number since they left three gifts. The magi visiting Jesus Christ may not have come from Iran; they may have simply been wealthy noblemen or priests from nearby who could afford expensive gifts. However, the Latin word magus, and the Greek word magos whence it came, originally referred to Zoroastrian priests, famous for their knowledge of astrology.

In Play: I know of no reason to isolate today's word in the realm of religion. Many situations today call for it: "It would take more than a new president to turn this company around; it would take a major magus." A wise man must also have powers of magic to qualify as a magus: "Roscoe's ego has gotten completely out of control; he thinks he is some kind of magus."

Word History: Today's Good Word is pure Latin, which explains its unusual plural, perfectly normal in Latin. Latin borrowed the word from Greek magos, itself a borrowing from Old Persian magosh. Persian, the language in Iran today, is an Indo-European language related to English and unrelated to Semitic languages like Arabic and Hebrew. The Proto-Indo-European root underlying magosh meant "able, strong" and may be found in languages all over the Indo-European world today. In English it is might and German mögen "can, may". Among the Slavic languages, we find it in Russian moch', Czech moci, Polish móc, and Slovak môct', all meaning "can, may". The Greek word magos took on an adjective, magikos, meaning "of, like the magi". This sense drifted to "magical", which passed from Greek to Latin to French, where it was borrowed by English as magic. (While we aren't sure if Larry Brady has magical powers of a magus, he certainly has great lexical knowledge, and we thank him for suggesting today's Good Word.)
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Re: Magus

Postby LukeJavan8 » Sat Dec 21, 2013 12:52 pm

There is a local boys pre-college preparatory high school.
It has three entrances, and various lanes, all named.
One of them is Maji Way.
-----please, draw me a sheep-----
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Re: Magus

Postby Perry Lassiter » Sat Dec 21, 2013 1:20 pm

John Fowles' book The Magus is one of the best I ever read. Underlying theme is the nature of reality, which keeps changing. I read the original before he revised it.
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Re: Magus

Postby Charles.McCarthy » Sat Dec 21, 2013 3:59 pm

...The Proto-Indo-European root underlying magosh meant "able, strong" and may be found in languages all over the Indo-European world today. In English it is might and German mögen "can, may"


The German "Macht" seems to me to be closer to the sense of "able. strong" than moegen [how do I make an umlaut?]. How does one tell which it should be?
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Re: Magus

Postby damoge » Sat Dec 21, 2013 5:01 pm

aren't both macht and mogen from the same root?
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Re: Magus

Postby bnjtokyo » Sat Dec 21, 2013 10:54 pm

When defining a time period, isn't it conventional to list the earlier time point first and the later time point second? If so, the period of time within which Zarathustra started Zoroastrianism should be give as "between 1500 and 1200 BC."
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Re: Magus

Postby MTC » Sun Dec 22, 2013 3:33 am

According to the Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Dates and numbers, "A closing BCE or BC year is given in full (2590–2550 BCE)." This example does not directly address the question, but does place the earlier date and larger number first.
Now we can all breathe easier.

P.S. About the film adaptation of The Magus, Woody Allen quipped "If I had to live my life again, I'd do everything the same, except that I wouldn't see The Magus." Nevertheless, not having read The Magus, and after Perry's recommendation, and finding the novel on a critic's list of 100 Best Novels, I will now read the book.
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Re: Magus

Postby Perry Lassiter » Sun Dec 22, 2013 6:36 pm

I can't vouch for the book after he revised it. Been meaning to read the revision.

Re umlauts. On iPad, hold down the vowel in question, and the possible characters appear above it. Slide you finger over the one you want, and...
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Re: Magus

Postby Philip Hudson » Sun Dec 22, 2013 11:09 pm

On a PC, copy a letter with an umlaut and paste it in your text. Mögen. There, I just did it. There are also alt key codes but they are too much trouble. The iPad way seems nice. But there are too many other gotchas on the iPad for me to consider using one. I had one but I gave it to my wife. She Facebooks on it. It is good for that.
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