Welcome to the new subscribers and thanks to all who took part in the book launch last week. It feels great to finally have “Words the Vikings Gave Us” out in the world and landing on people’s shelves.
This week’s word is euneirophrenia and it comes with a word of warning. I stumbled across it on Pinterest and now I can’t find it in Websters, Collins, the OED, or Etymologyonline which makes me suspect this one is a recent creation for clicks and likes. However, it describes a state of being which I cannot name in any other way so there’s a need for this word. Perhaps it will catch on?
Euneirophrenia is the peaceful state of mind you achieve upon waking from pleasant dreams.
A few online sources suggest euneirophrenia’s roots lie in Greek, eu (good), oneiro (dream), phrenia (state of mind) and I’d give that one about a 50% credibility grade. Yes, the prefix eu can be used that way. I found oneiromancy defined as “divination through dreams,” (in English since the 1600s) and it is formed from oneiro (dream) and mancy (divination) from Greek. You could even be an oneiromantis back then, an interpreter of dreams. That would be a fun on to put on your resume/cv.
Phrenia presents some issues though. The closest I could get was phrenic, an English adjective since the 1700s describing the diaphragm. It reached English via Latin phrenicus and Greek phren (the diaphragm muscle). Its etymology demonstrates neatly both my issues with euneirophrenia’s roots.
- Although theories abound about eating at night causing bad dreams you can’t really link “state of mind” directly to “diaphragm” without some major anatomical contortions.
- It is pretty rare to find a word in English that came directly from Greek without a clear story attached (a Greek myth, for example, or an object English borrowed from Greece). It is much more common for the word to have traveled to English via Latin and probably French or Italian as well.
I’ve found exceptions to this, of course, usually when somebody in the 1800s decided to coin a word and using their knowledge of schoolboy Greek compounded a few Greek words together to create a term. Honestly, I think euneirophrenia falls into this category. If anybody can provide any further information on its history or examples of its use earlier than the year 2000, then please comment below and I’ll update this post. If I’ve learned anything in 13 years of wordfooling here it is that it’s impossible to know everything about every word, and to be suspicious of cute obscure words on Pinterest posts.
I explored two other slumber related words previously on the blog – uhtceare and dormiveglia which you might also enjoy.
Before I finish, a couple of post-launch tidbits. The launch day competition for a necklace of replica Viking beads has closed. The winner was Nell Jenda and her prize has been dispatched.
The very lovely Dan and Shauna of Bunny Trails podcast had me on to chat about “Words the Vikings Gave Us” and you can listen to our chat here. Their enthusiasm is infectious and their podcast (available wherever you get your podcasts) about the origin of phrases is well worth a listen.
Also since my last blog, Sharon Bennett Connolly – author of four nonfiction books about Norman England and host of the brilliantly named History The Interesting Bits blog was kind enough to let me share a guest post titled “Six Misunderstandings about the Vikings”. She has had some great guests on the blog over the years so if you enjoy history I can definitely recommend spending some time scrolling over there.
I’ll let you know as they go live but brace yourselves because Wordfoolery is going on podcast tour this year with stops at The Endless Knot, Words for Granted, What in the Word, Lexitecture, and Mark Lestrange. Etymology is alive and well in the pod world.
Until next time happy reading, writing, and wordfooling,