Use this forum to suggest Good Words for Professor Beard.
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Postby Audiendus » Thu Mar 17, 2011 10:34 pm


Meaning: A swastika.

[Possibly from "fill foot" = a sign used to fill the lower part (foot) of a painted glass window.]

The sign was used in ancient Greece (also called a gammadion) and in heraldry (also called a cross cramponnee). The word is not usually associated with the Nazi swastika.

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Postby MTC » Fri Mar 18, 2011 3:55 am

According to About.com, "The word "swastika" comes from the Sanskrit svastika - "su" meaning "good," "asti" meaning "to be," and "ka" as a suffix.

Until the Nazis used this symbol, the swastika was used by many cultures throughout the past 3,000 years to represent life, sun, power, strength, and good luck. " See http://history1900s.about.com/cs/swasti ... istory.htm

The symbol has undergone a radically negative transformation in meaning analogous to "semantic shift" in words. For an apt comparison, take the word "egregious" that " (o)riginally described something that was remarkably good. The word is from the Latin egregius (outstanding) which is from e-, ex- (out of) + greg- or grex (flock). Now it means something that is remarkably bad or flagrant." See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semantic_change

Can the original meaning of the swastika symbol be recaptured, or is it forever lost?

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Postby Slava » Fri Mar 18, 2011 8:04 pm

Not too long ago the Smithsonian Magazine had an article on Buddhist monks, and many of the pictures of them showed swastikas. That was when I learned this wasn't a strictly Nazi symbol. However, given the Nazi tie-in and history, I don't think the word itself will ever recover. Sadly, fylfot may be a great substitute, but it's so weird looking I doubt it will ever make the grade and become widely used.
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Postby misterdoe » Wed Mar 23, 2011 12:42 am

I have a book on graphic symbols, and I read the entry on the swastika, not knowing until afterward that the book's original publication date was actually 1938, when Nazism's horrors hadn't been fully exposed to the outside world. The book kept talking about the "positive connotations" of the swastika or fylfot, and I wondered just what alternate universe the writer had just beamed in from to write such a thing... :shock:

(Interesting too that the book, old as it is, has an extensive collection of Japanese and other Asian symbols. Wish I could find it. :o )

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