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MYRMIDON

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MYRMIDON

Postby Dr. Goodword » Sat Dec 15, 2012 12:08 am

• myrmidon •


Pronunciation: mêr-mê-dahn • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A faithful follower who carries out orders unquestioningly. 2. A member of a warrior nation of ancient Thessaly, Greece, that was led by Achilles in the Trojan War.

Notes: Today's Good Word is very unEnglish, a fact brought about by its Greek heritage. It is not quite as pejorative as lackey and might be used to refer to someone who simply carries out tasks faithfully. It has been assigned an adjective, myrmidonian, and long ago someone thought to use myrmidonize as a verb, but the word didn't catch on.

In Play: The alliteration created by today's word next to its near synonym, minion, makes them a great pair for emphasizing the concept: "Our fearless leader, followed by his minions and myrmidons, stormed into the conference room and took control of the meeting." In the singular, it offers a welcome respite from all its synonyms: "That hen-pecked twerp, Ben Dover, is nothing but his wife's chief myrmidon."

Word History: Since today's word comes from a proper noun, the likelihood that it has a traceable etymology is slim to nil. The interesting historical question is, however: how did the name of a warrior nation that fought bravely in the Siege of Troy come to refer to a docile follower? The explanation goes back to a pseudo-etymology apparently introduced by the French in the 16th century. The French associated this name with the Greek word myrmes "ant", shifting the meaning to "insignificant person". English then (re)combined this meaning with the original sense of the followers of Achilles. (Frank Myers of the State University of New York, Stony Brook, is anything but a myrmidon for having the gumption to suggest today's Good Word.)
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Re: MYRMIDON

Postby MTC » Sat Dec 15, 2012 9:26 am

Mankind has adopted an odd posture toward ants, looking down at them and up at them at the same time. Ants are insignificant, but the global ecosystem would collapse without them. They are slaves, but also obedient citizens of model societies. The confused etymology of "myrmidon" captures some of this ambivalence.

Nowadays the ant's stock is on the upswing. Indeed they have become role models. Engineers pay homage to their logistics. Sociologists study their seamless cooperation. Entomologists marvel at their ancestry. Where would Etymologists be without
them? One word less, I guess.
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Re: MYRMIDON

Postby Slava » Sat Dec 15, 2012 12:29 pm

We wouldn't have formic or Formica, either.
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Re: MYRMIDON

Postby Perry Lassiter » Sat Dec 15, 2012 1:05 pm

OK Slava, elucidate.
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Re: MYRMIDON

Postby MTC » Sat Dec 15, 2012 3:08 pm

Slava is quite capable of elucidating, but I just cannot resist the urge to hop in. "Formica" is the Latin word for ant. It has a long line of "antcestors" in English. My favorite is "formication"
(Note the "m" not "n!") which means the sensation of ants creeping along one's skin. "Ants in your pants," remember that?

Now I'll turn the microphone back to Slava...
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Re: MYRMIDON

Postby Slava » Sat Dec 15, 2012 3:28 pm

You got it right MTC. You had asked where etymologists would be without ants. I just added two more words we wouldn't have. I'm sure there are more.
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Re: MYRMIDON

Postby Philip Hudson » Sun Dec 16, 2012 1:40 am

Slava: We didn't get Formica from the ant. An early use of the plastic, Formica, was as a replacement for mica in insulation, hence the name. The inventor stuck to the name, even when reminded that it might be thought to have a formic root. We are most familiar with sheet Formica. I have used Formica as table and cabinet tops. As a loyal Texan, I have also used Wilsonart, a Formica competitor in Temple, Texas.

I owe you for introducing the word formic as an adjective. Not that I have never used it, I just never thought past formic acid to the definition “related to ants”. This topic is interesting, but the acid, having a formic smell, stinks. Imagine a horse-watering trough invaded by clumps of millions of pissants. (Merriam-Webster, Urban Dictionary etc. get the cart before the horse here. The pejorative slang word pissant derives from the physical pissant or sugar ant.) Now imagine a rainwater cistern with the same problem. When this would happen to us on the farm, long before the pejorative word was coined, I had to pump out the cistern, go down a ladder into it and clean it out, then order a tank-truck of water from town.
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Re: MYRMIDON

Postby MTC » Sun Dec 16, 2012 8:57 am

PLAINTIFF'S CLOSING ARGUMENT FORMICA v FORMICA

May it please the court, ladies and gentlemen of the jury:

The rights of my clients, the Ants were indisputably neglected, nay trampled on by the prior court in granting the "Formica" trademark. Court records speak plainly:

"The mineral mica was commonly used at that time for electrical insulation. Because the new product acted as a substitute “for mica”, Faber coined the name “Formica.” This was in fact a preexisting word, the Latin for a genus of ant insects..." But despite the Ant's earlier, unequivocal claim to the name "Formica" the prior court erred by granting a trademark to Defendant.

Indeed, it is undisputed the Ants' Latin name has always been "Formica," and their family name "Formicidae." The evidence shows my clients lived happily under this nomenclature for many years before Formica filed its application.

Nevertheless, an exhaustive search of court records unearths a shameful truth: The Ants were neither represented by counsel nor given notice of a hearing in the Formica trademark application process. They were, sadly, "beneath" the court's notice. This is Speciesism at its overweening worst, ladies and gentlemen of the jury.

True enough as counsel contends in the Bible Adam was given "dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth." ( Ants, of course, falling into the category of "creeping things that "creepeth.") But does this Biblical grant justify stripping these humble but inestinimably important creatures of their rights? No, I say to you and no again! In the words of The Bard, “Who steals my purse, steals trash, but he that filches from me my good name robs me of that which not enriches him and makes me poor indeed."

Is it not time then, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, to redress this legal slight? Certainly it has remained an ugly blot on our escutcheon far too long. You, the jury, are entrusted with the power to right this wrong. When you retire to your chambers for deliberation consider the justness of the Ants' cause. They seek only their just due--exclusive use of their name. Do not be mislead by mere scale. What seems di minimis to Men looms large to the lowly Ant. Moreover I submit to you Men cannot rest, their dreams filled with formiculation, until the rights of Ant's be served. It is in your hands, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, to resore balance to the scales of justice. Return to the Ants their rightful name!

Thank you.

Plaintiff rests, your honor.

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Re: MYRMIDON

Postby Perry Lassiter » Sun Dec 16, 2012 10:16 am

Not to mention the mass pogroms vs those formicans called termites and ethnic cleansing of wood ants. Are the Formosans the foremost ants?
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Re: MYRMIDON

Postby eberntson » Sun Dec 16, 2012 3:40 pm

Maurice Maeterlinck has a book on the White Ant Termite) that give more enlightenment on this subject, also his book on bees could prove useful too.

E

PS. I think Edgar Rice Bourough center of the earth stories had gigantic ants in it too, perhaps he used myrmidon in describing them. I just remember the ant milking and devouring other creatures used as cattle, such as people, which was quite an off putting idea at the time.
EBERNTSON
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Re: MYRMIDON

Postby Philip Hudson » Sun Dec 16, 2012 10:41 pm

You do know that the gas given off by termites. as they feast upon the wood of their preference, is the root cause of global warming. The planet is being rendered uninhabitable by termite farts. Wait! There is another school of thought. The bovine population of the world is at an historical peak. These critters give off gas at every stage of their rumination. Down with termites! Down with cattle! Save our planet!
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Re: MYRMIDON

Postby eberntson » Mon Dec 17, 2012 2:42 pm

Philip;

I was just in Mexico and ate crickets, and if offered will eat chocolate covered termites. I do my part by eating a cow a year, some amount of pigs, and a number of chickens. I'm doing my best, now if Texas would just stop breeding those damn gas bags we might be able to catch up. Personally the world did just fine with all those buffaloes and other critters, so perhaps the cause lies at the feet of some other varmint species.

E
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Re: MYRMIDON

Postby MTC » Mon Dec 17, 2012 5:13 pm

Perry Lassiter wrote: Are the Formosans the foremost ants?


Not by a long "shot." That honor belongs to the Bullet Ant, a formican with a sting so riveting it tops the Schmidt Sting Pain Index.

"It is described as causing "waves of burning, throbbing, all-consuming pain that continues unabated for up to 24 hours".

See (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paraponera)

Even worse than an IRS audit!
Last edited by MTC on Tue Dec 18, 2012 6:31 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: MYRMIDON

Postby Perry Lassiter » Mon Dec 17, 2012 6:51 pm

1 - I've seen chocolate covered ants on Louisiana grocery shelves. I did not buy them.
2 - It's amazing what one learns on this forum.
3 - Since most dentists have become relatively painless now, the IRS is filling the gap.
4 - The only time I got audited, they sent ME a check for $500!
5 - It's complicated, but in that situation I received a notice in the mail that the 500 was coming, but might take several weeks to get there.
That same day, or perhaps the next, I got another later (no longer really valid) saying I owed them $900, and if I didn't remit within 10 days, they could send the army to collect!
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Re: MYRMIDON

Postby bamaboy56 » Wed Dec 19, 2012 8:21 am

Don't ask me why but I've often thought that, knowing the prodigious strength of an ant relative to its size, if the ants were to be suddenly increased in size to that of a human, we would be wiped out as a species in no time. I mentioned this once to my wife and she looked at me like I needed to be institutionalized. My wife's worries aside, I suppose this would hold true for most insects that inhabit this planet. Imagine being stung by a human-sized wasp! I've never been bitten by a bullet ant (and don't want to). As a youth I used to frequent the beach in Galveston, Texas, and I would get bitten by sandflies. They hurt!
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