Two Words.

1) In a text I was editing there was a reference to “rhopalic verse.” Having no idea what “rhopalic” meant, I looked it up and discovered it meant “having each succeeding unit in a prosodic series larger or longer than the preceding one” (e.g., each line in a poem being a syllable longer than the preceding line). So far, so recondite, but it was the etymology that got me to post about it: it’s from Greek rhopalikos ‘like a rhopalon [ῥόπαλον],’ a club thicker toward the end. As Pound said, the natural object is always the adequate symbol.

2) I have long known the word exarch ‘a bishop lower in rank than a patriarch’ or ‘a governor of a distant province under the Byzantine emperors’; it’s pronounced /ˈɛksɑrk/, like a good Greek derivative (it’s from Greek ἔξαρχος). But looking for something else in my dictionary I discovered the homograph exarch ‘(of a xylem strand) having the first-formed xylem external to that formed later.’ I can only hope that’s pronounced /ˈɛksɑrk/ as well, because otherwise it would be excessively annoying; my dictionary doesn’t give a pronunciation.

Comments

  1. The OED gives both words the same pronunciation. However, three of the four citations for the adjective are themselves definitions, and the fourth one critiques the term as poorly chosen!

  2. You learn something new every day – I always thought that exarch was pronounced /ˈɛgzɑ:k/, analogous to the word “exact.”

    The Croatian version of the word is egzarh, plural: egzarsi.

  3. I would have said /ˈɛgzɑrk/.

  4. @zyxt: The word “exact” is stressed on the second syllable, e.g. as /ɪɡˈzækt/, which may be relevant. (Though maybe not: “exit”, like “exarch”, is stressed on the first syllable, and many speakers — myself included — pronounce it with /gz/.)

  5. Butterflies are Rhopalocera.

  6. David Marjanović says:

    The sense organ clusters of jellyfish are called rhopalia.

    I can only hope that’s pronounced /ˈɛksɑrk/ as well, because otherwise it would be excessively annoying; my dictionary doesn’t give a pronunciation.

    Being a scientific term in English, it probably doesn’t have a single agreed-upon pronunciation. Even data has three.

    The word “exact” is stressed on the second syllable, e.g. as /ɪɡˈzækt/, which may be relevant.

    This has been called “Verner’s second law”: /ks/ behind the stress, /gz/ elsewhere (…and /z/ initially). Apparently some amount of analogy has already happened to obscure its effects?

  7. Eli Nelson says:

    @David Marjanović:

    Either analogy, or it was an incomplete sound law to start with. I don’t think it applies often in words or prefixes of Greek origin; I use /ks/ rather than /gz/ in “exogenous,” for example. I think intervocalic letter “s” similarly represents /z/ less often in words from Greek than in words from Latin.

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