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phantasmagoria

Printable Version Pronunciation: fæn-tæz-mê-gor-ri-ê Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A dream-like salmagundi of (rapidly changing) images. 2. An exhibition of optical illusions that defy reality.

Notes: Most dictionaries accept the Anglicized version of today's word, phantasmagory, as well as our 'Greekish' Good Word. This may have been a back derivation from the adjective phantasmagorical. A phantasmagorist is a person who produces phantasmagorias.

In Play: The fun houses at amusement parks and fairs are hideous phantasmagorias designed to terrify customers. But not all phantasmagorias are designed to strike fear: "In the 60s Mildred was known for her light shows—phantasmagorias made up of bits of movies, slides, and overhead projections changing every second." A phantasmagoria is not necessarily a moving potpourri, either: "Hetty Wein's dinner table was a phantasmagoria of meats, vegetables, fruits, flowers, and dinnerware presented in a splendiferous array."

Word History: The original French phantasmagorie grew out of the Magic Lantern shows which began in the 17th century. The Belgian showman Etienne Robert (stage name Robertson) first used multiple projectors in the 1780s and, reportedly, came up with this name for his variation on the Magic Lantern. The first element is ancient Greek phantasma "vision, dream". The second element comes from Greek ageirein "to gather together". The noun associated with this verb in ancient Greek is agora "gathering place, market". (Today's Good Word comes from the phantasmagorical mind of Suzanne Williams, photographer, regular participant in the Alpha Agora, and regular visitor to the alphaDictionary Facebook page.)

Dr. Goodword, alphaDictionary.com

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