Eulogy

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Dr. Goodword
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Eulogy

Postby Dr. Goodword » Mon Jan 01, 2018 11:58 pm

• eulogy •


Pronunciation: yu-lê-jee • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: A laudatory oration or written encomium in praise of someone, especially after that person's death.

Notes: Today's Good Word has gravitated toward speeches given at a funeral. For formal praise of someone living, a rarely encountered word, eulogium, might be better. The adjective accompanying this word is eulogistic, and it also comes with a verb, to eulogize.

In Play: Eulogies are most often heard at funerals: "Melissa recalled only the good times they had enjoyed together in her eulogy to her husband in the casket before her." We do have written eulogies: "Aiken Hart's memorial eulogy to his father in the Times-Picayune used references to the recent solar eclipse to illustrate his loss."

Word History: Today's Good Word was taken from Greek eulogia "praise". In the New Testament it is used for "blessing". It is made up of eus "good" or eu "well" + logos "word, idea" + -ia, a noun suffix. Eu legein meant in Greek "to speak well of". Greek inherited eus from PIE (e)su- "good", also the origin of Sanskrit swastika "good luck", composed of su- "good" + esti- "being" + -ka, a noun suffix. Logos spread widely throughout the Indo-European languages. It is most prominently used as some form of -logy in most European languages, now meaning "the study of", as in biology "the study of life". It comes from PIE leg-/log-, so we also see it in borrowings like lexical, legible, and legend. (I cannot use eulogium enough to express my gratitude to George Kovac for the Good Words like today's that he has suggested over the years.)
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George Kovac
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Re: Eulogy

Postby George Kovac » Tue Jan 02, 2018 12:00 pm

What should you say when someone dies? The ancient Greeks and Jews had different answers to that question.

The primary purpose of a eulogy, a proper funeral eulogy, is to praise the deceased. This praise becomes exaggerated for the funeral of a public figure. Greek literature is full of tragic heroic actors.

But, for private or more intimate mourners, a eulogy also serves to help the bereaved cross the awful chasm that separates the ordinary life the mourners enjoyed before the loss from the ordinary life that they know (intellectually, but not emotionally) will eventually resume. We know we will eventually come to accept the death. But it is hard to get to that place.

In Jewish funeral tradition, the technical word for “eulogy” is “hesped.” Although the two words are often used interchangeably and are considered synonymous, there is a unique significance to “hesped.” Dr. Goodword tells us that “eulogy” comes from Greek words meaning “to speak well of.” “Hesped,” on the other hand, derives from Hebrew words which translate roughly as “to induce tears,” “to make cry.”

Why should making people cry be a religious duty, or even a decent thing to do? Because tears are how we cope emotionally, how we prepare ourselves to make an emotional transition. To get to that place where we can remember our loved one, and resolve to lead better lives in memory of him or her.

In those (fortunately rare) occasions on which I have been called on to deliver or write a eulogy, I reflect on the context, and decide whether the eulogy should also be a hesped.
“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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