Wednesday, February 15, 2006


Last night we went to the festal choir rehearsal and went over some things for lent, including the akathist hymn. I knew that when you have two "apostrophoi" followed by an "elaphron"—I'm looking these up so I can say something clearer than "the little thingy" and "the upside-down bowl"—the length of the two apostrophoi are cut in half. So I learned two things: the first note of the three doesn't have to be an apostrophos, and if there is a syllable under the second note (the apostrophos just before the elaphron), it's a whole new ball-game: the three notes are each one beat in length, but the elaphron now means two steps down instead of the usual one. (The apostrophos and the elaphron are each ways of saying "go one step down the scale.")

Also, I learned that if I stand at a particular angle to the music, it's difficult to see due to my contacts. But my brain keeps working, so I find that I have different words than everyone else is reading. In the akathist, we were faced with a line: "Rejoice, O murex* who dyed in your own virgin blood the divine purple robe worn by the King of angelic hosts." Perfectly beautiful line when it's written. And read correctly. Since "murex" was furthest away from me, and it's not a word I come across often, and the first syllable was "mu-" instead of the "myu-" I had been expecting, my brain supplied "-rdress." That didn't seem to fit with the akathist hymn. Fortunately, we stopped and went over "murex"* and how to pronounce it. Then came "dyed in your own virgin blood" which almost made me cry I was laughing so hard. If you're listening (without the words), you can't see the 'y' in "dyed" so it sounds like a gothic tragedy ending, or Romeo and Juliet.

*It's the shellfish thing which makes the purple dye. I think they're extinct now, but I had a book when I was little about a boy and a girl who lived in Tyre and went hunting for murex ... and whatever the thing was called that gave off the red dye whose name I can't remember... gah. The darn book is "library use only" at the public library, so I can't look up the red dye thing.

I learned two new words, which was exciting. I mean there are new words I don't know, but usually on "word-of-the-day" lists (occasionally), or in the dictionary, but not usually in context. The second was "perspicuously" (which means "clearly," but is a particularly distinguished sounding word, no?). The first one, though, is derived from Middle English as opposed to Latin (which makes it more exotic for this Latin major): yeaned. *Triumphant pause* As in, "Rejoice, the ewe that yeaned the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of all the world." Fr. Seraphim explained that it means "to give birth," and is used about sheep, and when I went home and looked it up (*yeaned* I mean, how cool a word is that?), I found that it can apply to either sheep or goats.

In related news, I successfully used "tontine" in conversation with my husband. I don't remember the context, but it was a pun having something to do with taunting. *snif* And neither he nor I can remember how it went. And it was so nice.


P.S. After husband-man read my blog, we had the following conversation:
Him: I think the elaphron is, by default, two notes down and only in the particular combination with the apostrophos does it become one step down.
Me: THIS IS THE FIRST I'VE HEARD OF IT. I totally want to beat up Byzantine notation.


Blogger Mimi said...

Very cool, I love words and their history. I also get two Word-a-day emails!

Wed Feb 15, 01:07:00 PM CST  

Post a Comment

<< Home