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Dr. Goodword
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Postby Dr. Goodword » Fri Jul 07, 2017 11:22 pm

• internecine •

Pronunciation: in-têr-ne-seen • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Related to a struggle between entities in an organization, such as a nation or business. 2. Marked by mutual slaughter or destruction.

Notes: Today's word exemplifies the mischief dictionaries can do to language. The prefix inter- in today's word was used in Latin as an intensifier meaning "completely" rather than as a prefix with its usual meaning "mutual, between". Samuel Johnson mistook the prefix, and defined the word as "endeavoring mutual destruction". Johnson's dictionary was so popular, however, that his error became accepted usage. Later, due to yet another misinterpretation of the prefix, the meaning slipped even farther when it began to refer to internal struggle of any magnitude.

In Play: President Bush's Department of Homeland Security was created, among other reasons, to reduce the internecine competition between the various security agencies of the federal government. Today, however, we cannot escape the semantic slippage of internecine; it is ingrained in the language. To speak of World War II as 'an internecine war' would be taken as a reference to a mutually destructive war among nations.

Word History: This Good Word is a modification of Latin internecinus "massively destructive" from internecare "to slaughter", based on nex ([nek-s]) "death", an E-variant of Proto-Indo-European (PIE) nok-/nek- "death". The O-grade form is found in nocent "harmful, guilty", the rarely used antonym of innocent, and innocuous "harmful". Both are from the Latin verb nocere "to harm or injure". Noxious, alone or in obnoxious, derives from Latin noxa ([nok-s-a])"injury, damage". The E-grade form also turns up in Greek nekros "corpse, body", underlying the other word for cemetery, necropolis "city of the dead". Nectar, the drink of the gods, comes from PIE nek- "death" + tar "overcoming", the drink that overcomes death, and nectarine derives from nectar.
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George Kovac
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Re: Internecine

Postby George Kovac » Mon Jul 10, 2017 12:11 pm

I am notorious on this board for my hare-brained (and wrong-headed) etymologies.

When I was younger, I thought “internecine” derived from the Council of Nicaea (325 AD) in which various factions of the early Church fought bitterly over the issue of the nature of Jesus and the structure of the Trinity. (Spoiler alert for readers who have missed the last 1700 years of Western Civilization: it was concluded that Jesus’ nature is both fully divine and fully human and that “God” consists of three equally divine, but distinct, Persons.) The drafting of the Nicene Creed (still prayed to this day by Catholic, Anglican and some Protestant confessions) involved passionate disagreement among Christian theologians whether the substance of The Son was “the same as” or merely “similar to” that of The Father. (The spelling of the two underlying Greek words differ only in the inclusion of an addition vowel.) While modern observers may find only one iota of difference between the two concepts, the early Church was riven by such disputes.

Mine was a colorful and imaginative etymology. While the Church councils of the Fourth Century were the product of internecine disputes, I sadly acknowledge that “internecine” has nothing to do with Nicaea.
“The messy layers of human experience get pulled together, and sometimes ordered, by words.” Colum McCann “But Always Meeting Ourselves” New York Times, June 15, 2009

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Re: Internecine

Postby LukeJavan8 » Mon Jul 10, 2017 12:29 pm

But you enlighten us to the 'last 1700 years' as you so aptly
put it. The divisions still exist. Once in Israel I was accompanied
by a monoPhysite companion. And there is the Coptic and
Nestorian confessions which still have thousands of adherents.
-----please, draw me a sheep-----

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Re: Internecine

Postby misterdoe » Mon Jul 10, 2017 11:23 pm

Because I've seen internecine so often used for discord within an organization or group (civil war, family feud, office cliques, etc.) I always assumed the origin had something to do with family or relationship.

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Re: Internecine

Postby Slava » Thu Nov 30, 2017 4:09 pm

If you have a lousy museum guide is that a nocent docent?
Life is like playing chess with chessmen who each have thoughts and feelings and motives of their own.

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