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Tuesday, 9 October 2007
Mot Juste
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A helpful reader, responding to my grumbling about the inadequacy of the "-phobia" suffix:

Good sir—You ask in your current diary: "There's really a gap in the language here. How do you say 'don't much care for' in classical Greek?"

I think the best word you'll find is kataphronein, lit. "to think down on", meaning something along the line of "to despise, regard with contempt" if Messrs. Liddell and Scott are correct. (And they usually are.) In literature, it most often carries a sort of class bias connotation but philologically is quite serviceable for your purpose.

Alas, "Islamocataphronesis" is rather a mouthful. You might make investigations for yourself into something more felicitous, on this and any other matters that may in the future arise, at the excellent online version of Woodhouse's English-Greek lexicon. I assume, as a math lover and all around erudite individual, you are reasonably au fait with the Greek alphabet. Failing that, an hour of your life over at Wikipedia should do the trick.

Thank you, Sir. And indeed, though a terrible linguist, I love alphabets. At one point in my life I could rattle off the English, Greek, Russian (pre-revolutionary, of course), and Thai alphabets, and both the Japanese ones (i.e. hiragana and katakana—now I can only recall the mnemonic: "Kana Signs—Take Note How Much You Read and Write them"). I hit the wall with the Tibetan alphabet, which I dimly recall having about nine different "k" sounds. I have even tried my hand at alphabet verse.

Anyway, I am very much taken with "Islamocataphronesis," and shall do my best to promote this truly bodacious word.

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Posted on 10/09/2007 11:31 AM by John Derbyshire
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