This week’s word is colophon and unless you work in publishing, this may be a new one to you. It was to me. The colophon, in modern times, is the statement at the start of book stating details like date of publication, publisher’s name, place of publication etcetera.
The colophon used to be printed at the end of the book, but “the first shall be last” and all that. Just as movie credits on old films used to be at the start and now they’re at the end, so too colophon has relocated. It’s a shame though because the word evolution of colophon is related to being at the end.
Colophon entered English in the late 1770s from Late Latin, but originally from the Greek word kolophōn (summit, final touch) and the root word kel (hill, summit). Graeme Donald’s book “Sticklers, Sideburns, and Bikinis” elaborates on the hill part. Colophon is actually a toponym, a word named for a place. Colophon was a mountain city state in Ionia. They had great cavalry in their army who were renowned for always holding out until the very last moment to make a final and decisive contribution to battles. Hence the colophon should be the final, and most important, finishing touch to a book.
Colophon is 15 miles northwest of Ephesus in the Izmir region of what is now modern Turkey. The ruins of the city, high on the hills, can still be seen today.
Last week, at the kind invitation of Sinéad Brassil, I started a regular monthly slot called “Wordfoolery Wednesdays” on LMFM radio. We chatted about feckless, doom-scrolling, macabre & eldritch (with Halloween coming soon), and the local origins of the Beaufort Scale. If you missed it live, you can listen back to the podcast here. I’ve added a new page to the blog for the various audio interviews and this monthly chat. You’ll find it under the Listen to Wordfoolery tab at the top of the page.
Until next time happy reading, writing, and wordfooling,