Phlyarologist (a definition)

I’m a phlyarologist, and proud of it.

I originally found this word via the marvelous site savethewords.org. Or, more correctly, I’d have to say that the word found me. I had been looking for a word to adopt (preferably a poor, lonesome one with few friends), and this one leapt out at me, grabbed me around the throat and promised to strangle me if I didn’t immediately promise to use it wherever I could (and other places, too). Under the circumstances, I had little choice, although I know some who would say the world would have been a better place had I refused.

I have been asked the question: what exactly is a phlyarologist?

The earliest definition of ‘phlyarologist’ I’ve been able to find on the web dates to 17Jan2005 (according to the Wayback Machine). This ascribes the meaning ‘one who speaks nonsense’ to our poor, defenceless (apart from the strangling bit) word.

Now, I’ve often said that one shouldn’t believe everything you read on the Internet, so I find it both amusing and particularly apt that this definition is, in essence, wrong.

The suffix ‘logy‘ comes from the Greek language; it is ‘a combining form used in the names of bodies of knowledge’. Following on from this, a ‘-logist’ is one who studies (a body of knowledge). A biologist, for instance, is one who studies biology.

Phlyarology then, is the study of nonsense; and a phlyarologist is one who studies nonsense — not, necessarily, one who speaks it.

It does have to be said, though, that the pursuit of phlyarology has a tendency to instil a sense of the absurd. It’s quite common to find phlyarologists who are incredibly good at speaking nonsense of the total and utter variety. Some notable examples of Master Phlyarologists of the First Order would include:

I should point out that I myself am only a Trainee Phlyarologist — any suggestion that any nonsense I spout is comparable to that produced by the above list of genii is itself nonsense of the complete and ludicrous flavour.

Here’s hoping that’s cleared that one up.

About pendantry

Phlyarologist (part-time) and pendant. Campaigner for action against anthropogenic global warming (AGW) and injustice in all its forms. Humanist, atheist, notoftenpist. Wannabe poet, writer and astronaut.
This entry was posted in ... wait, what?, Communication, Core thought, Culture, History, Just for laughs, memetics, Phlyarology and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

33 Responses to Phlyarologist (a definition)

  1. So now I know. . .
    But, http://www.wordnik.com/words/phlyarologist
    doesn’t.

    You may have to edificate them 😉

    • pendantry says:

      There’s lots of places that get it wrong (including savethewords.org, the place where I first found this wonderful nugget). One of my main tenets is “don’t believe everything you read on the ‘Net” (and another: “take everything I say with a pinch of salt”). As for edification: I do my best, but life’s too short to register with all these websites just to throw in another semi-worthless tuppence!🙂

  2. I could not agree more. life is very short, make the best of every day…

    • pendantry says:

      I have a very good friend who takes offence at those who make jibes about his vertically challenged status. He has such a huge chip on his shoulder about it that he even starts when someone uses that word you just used (though you do have to bend down quite a long way to see it). Unfortunately, I’m beginning to suspect that his affliction may be catching.

      Excuse me, I think I have to go and lie down for a, um, long while.

  3. Reblogged this on The Sound of Flying Kiwi and commented:
    I can really, really relate to this. Phlyarologist is also the word that chose me, and… it fits.

  4. Jennwith2ns says:

    I might have to reblog this one, too, once I get back to blogging . . . and reblogging.

    If I spent 47.82 seconds staring at the title of this in your sidebar trying to figure out how to *pronounce* “phlyarologist” before clicking on it, can I be a Trainee-Trainee Phlyarologist?

    • pendantry says:

      I believe that a bearer of such a high-precision timepiece is clearly well prepared to delve into the arcane (and highly-misunderstood) inner workings of phlyarology. And perhaps, when you return from your travels, you might consider enrolling in the Multiphasic Phlyarological University? (The foundations are being laid as we speak, though there may be a snag as the Chief Architect went on sick leave before finalising the construction blueprints — he was last seen heading off into the sunset muttering something incoherent; those nearby think they heard snatches that may have included ‘insufferable’, ‘ludicrous working conditions’, ‘crowd of raving nutters’, ‘all belong in’ and ‘lunatic asylum’.)

      • Jennwith2ns says:

        Shame about the architect, but thanks for the acceptance into your University! When do I start? What books do I need? (Actually, I’m probably already reading some of them.)

        • pendantry says:

          Serendipitously, there’s a post that’s just opened up: Curriculum Designer Extraordinaire. Interested?🙂

          • Jennwith2ns says:

            Yes. First item on the agenda: an interdisciplinary study combining aspects of both Phlyarology and Procrastination. We can call it the pp study . . .

            (I forget. Do British people understand the term “pee pee”?)

          • pendantry says:

            Excellent, that’s what I like to hear!

            Pee pee, yes. And I seem to recall that number twos were ‘ca ca’ when I was undergoing potty training. Which always makes me smile whenever I see two Ford Kas going by: and they in turn remind me of the Crapee in Ben Elton’s ‘Gridlock’🙂

          • Jennwith2ns says:

            Heh. Nice. I mean, “nice.”

            I wrote a great comment, but WordPress is obviously opposed to this quantity of phlyarology, and it disappeared when I hit “reply.”

            I don’t think I have the energy to reconstruct it–at least at this point–but believe me when I say it carried on both the phlyarological and scatalogical themes nicely.

          • pendantry says:

            Oh, not not so nice. I’ve been there, and sympathise entirely. Some time ago I began to train myself to ‘select all, copy’ frequently on larger posts as insurance against machines that not only don’t do what they say on the tin but actively fight against their design intent*. Such nonsense is a perfect phlyarological fit.

            * Yes, I’m well aware that I shouldn’t anthropomorphise machines. The main reason, of course, being that they simply don’t like it.

          • pendantry says:

            PS After a little digging, I think I’ve found the cause of the problem. It seems to be a case of resistentialism: “the seemingly spiteful behavior shown by inanimate objects”.

  5. Jennwith2ns says:

    😀

    Yesterday I anthropomorphised my kayak . . . mostly because I still can’t figure out how to get into it without falling in the water first.

  6. I met with this one already and liked it. I hope you’ll hang on on Awad board. It’s a good place but could do with some rejuvenation and healthy pedantry.🙂

  7. Wyrd Smythe says:

    What do you think about Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series for inclusion in the list of world class phlyarologists? HHGttG is a supernova that outshines just about anything, but Discworld is a global cluster of delightful, wonderful stars.

  8. Pingback: Goldilocks zone, planet, idea | Wibble

  9. Sorry to resurrect and obviously old topic but your definition of -logy is in and of itself flawed (as most who are linguistically challenged usually are in these instances) as the Greek root does not strictly mean “the study of” nor is it even -logy. The true “roots” are “logia” which means to speak or tell and “logos” which means a written narrative, account or explanation. There is no Greek root that directly means “to study” that even resembles logia or logos.

    If -logy only meant “the study of” then words like chronology, eulogy, apology and trilogy would mean entirely different things. Eulogy and apology are referring to the spoken or written word which is what phlyarology would also be referring to.

    • pendantry says:

      Thanks for the education! Much appreciated, it’s always good to know when one has gone the wrong way.

    • pendantry says:

      I’ve been mulling this over for some time now… and have come to the conclusion that I need to retract the thanks I offered in my previous response to you. In fact I appear to be guilty of accepting argumentum ad verecundiam, the error of accepting truth from authority, purely on the basis of the assertiveness of your words. More fool me…

      Let me state first of all that I am not a philologist (one who studies languages). I assume from the tone and content of your comment that you consider yourself to be one. If so, I would ask you to note in particular the ‘one who studies’ part of the word ‘philologist’.

      My interpretation of the word ‘phlyarologist’ extends directly from the Wikipedia entry on the suffix -logy. I quote what it says there today (which I believe to also be what it said four years ago):

      The English suffix has two separate main senses, reflecting two sources of the -λογία suffix in Greek:

      + a combining form used in the names of sciences or bodies of knowledge, e.g. theology (loaned from Latin in the 14th century) or sociology. In words of the type theology, the suffix is derived originally from -λογ- (-log-) (a variant of -λεγ-, -leg-), from the Greek verb λέγειν (legein, “to speak”). The suffix has the sense of “the character or deportment of one who speaks or treats of [a certain subject]”, or more succinctly, “the study of [a certain subject]”.
      + the root word nouns that refer to kinds of speech, writing or collections of writing, e.g. eulogy or trilogy. In words of this type, the “-logy” element is derived from the Greek noun λόγος (logos, “speech”, “account”, “story”). The suffix has the sense of “[a certain kind of] speaking or writing”.

      Philology is an exception: while its meaning is closer to the first sense, the etymology of the word is similar to the second sense.

      Note in particular the reference to ‘two separate main senses‘ of -logy. The second of these agrees with yours; but you dismiss the first sense entirely when you say:

      There is no Greek root that directly means “to study” that even resembles logia or logos.

      You don’t even offer a reference to back up your claim.

      Digging a little deeper (in the only practical way that I, as a non-philologist, can) I see that the talk page on -logy is riddled with examples of differing opinions on the various meanings and uses of both -logy and -ology.

      Of particular interest on that page is the entry The Greek root underlying ‘-logy’, which includes the following:

      I have an indifferent knowledge of Greek, but in my hands I hold a reprint of a 1795 Analytical Greek Lexicon (Samuel Bagster and Sons Limited, London), which I bought in 1963. It says that the Greek word, λογια (“logia”), is an accusative plural of λóγιον (“logion”), which, like λεγειν, is a derivation of “lego” = “to speak,” but means “oracle” or “revelation.” In Greek, therefore, λογια (“logia”) means “oracles” (given that it is a plural form).

      However, according to the magisterial Oxford English Dictionary, λογια was a suffix in Greek long before words containing it migrated to Latin and later to English, and thus, from the beginning, may not have carried with it the oracular meaning of the whole word λογια, despite identical spelling. But, the connection is strong enough to lend an intriguing nuance to all the -ology words. In an academic discipline or course of study which is an -ology, it could be that the student is actually looking for a message from ultimate reality. Biology may really mean “oracles about living things,” or possibly “attempting to discern the ultimate truth about living things!”

      Tony Harwood-Jones 04:56, 20 November 2006 (UTC)

      Note especially the parts I’ve put in bold — the first passage suggests that your information may be incomplete, and the second… well, I find the suggestion that phlyarology could be construed as having a bearing on the search for ‘ultimate reality’ a thoroughly intriguing prospect! (Yes, my tongue is firmly in my cheek. Then again, hmm, maybe it isn’t… ;))

      The wiktionary entry -logy makes much the same distinction as wikipedia between the two different ways of interpreting it:

      Suffix
      -logy

      1. A branch of learning; a study of a particular subject.
      Examples: biology, geology, genealogy

      2. Something said, or a way of speaking, a narrative.
      Examples: haplology, eulogy, trilogy, apology

      Also note especially the wiktionary entry -logist:

      Etymology
      -logy ‎(“study of”) +‎ -ist ‎(“(agent)”)

      Suffix
      -logist
      A person who studies or is an expert in the related -logy.

      Yes, I know that online wiki entries cannot be considered authoritative. But I think I have more faith in their offerings than the utterances of one whose very first sentence contains a veiled insult.

      In conclusion, I find that I am currently unable to accept your version of ‘truth’ in this matter.

      Please note, as an aside, that I utterly reject your apology for necroposting. My original article is dated 2011, but the earliest reference I’ve ever found to the word ‘phlyarologist’ (discovered since I wrote the original article above) was in 1867:

      Oxford English Dictionary
      phlyarologist phlyaˈrologistnonce-wd.
      [f. Gr. ϕλύαρο-ς silly talk + -logy + -ist.]
      A talker of nonsense.
      1867 Athenæum 12 Oct. 459/1, I would not meddle with such a phlyarologist.

      So, were I to accept that you were incorrect to make a comment on an article that was a mere four years old, I would be forced to conclude that my 2011 article on this subject was itself a necropost, being late by almost a century and a half, and thus should never have been allowed to see the light of day. (Arguably, this is true anyway.)

      Unfortunately, I’m currently unable to locate that 1867 reference, as Oxford University Press has changed (‘upgraded’?) their system, which has apparently resulted in the removal of the account that I had allowing me access to the online OED (I’m waiting to hear from them whether the rules have now been changed such that I would now have to pay for access, as I suspect may well be the case in these days of ‘austerity’ as ideological justification for privatising everything that was in public hands and ensuring that the rich folk can get still richer).

      Interestingly, it would seem that this single 1867 reference is the basis on which the word is currently defined as ‘one who speaks nonsense’, despite more recent examples of the word (the Internet contains quite a number of these, now) including mine which seeks to repurpose this otherwise totally obsolete and unused-in-its-original-sense word.

      Folk keep trying to tell me that ‘language evolves’; but it seems to me that this is only true for the majority of the population; it seems that some linguistics experts consider themselves imbued with the ability to avoid this rule (while accusing others of being ‘linguistically challenged’).

      In summary: I believe you to be mistaken.

      In closing, I would like to thank you for having provided this opportunity of indulging in this extensive bout of recursive phlyarology🙂

    • pendantry says:

      Addendum: Thanks to a prompt response from the online OED, I now find that I can also point to that resource, and not have to resort to any wiki, in substantiation of my claim that a ‘-logist’ is one who studies.

      Therefore, a phlyarologist is not ‘one who speaks’ nonsense, but one who studies it.

      Interestingly, whereas last time I consulted the online OED about the word ‘phlyarologist’ (some time ago) I was presented with the ‘one who speaks nonsense’ nonce nonsense, backed up by the single (clearly erroneous) 1865 reference, when I search for that word today it is nowhere to be found.

      Perhaps the OED is in the process of correcting its mistake. Language evolves.

      So I find that I am indebted to you for having provided me with the ammunition to prove that my usage of the word ‘phlyarologist’ is, in fact, the correct one after all.

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