Apparently there is a rhetorical term anthimeria meaning the use of a word as a different part of speech than its normal one, as in Calvin’s “Verbing weirds language.” (Hobbes’s response: “Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding.”) This came up in a thread (which I already posted about here); a commenter (mis)used the term, other people discussed it, and I eventually produced this cranky outburst:

What the devil is this alleged word “anthimeria,” anyway? It’s not in any dictionary, and a website I found by googling it gives this stupid derivation:

from Gk. anti- “instead of” and mereia “a part”

Do you see an -h- in there? I don’t either. If you’re going to combine anti- and mereia, what you’ll get is “antimereia” or (if you want to Latinize it) “antimeria.” And what’s the point? I’m not about to go trawling through the long, long lists of rhetorical terminology, but there’s a category for everything, and I’m sure there’s one that would cover this. And if there’s not, why go to the trouble of creating a fake-classical one that anybody with any classical education will sneer at? […] I reject this preposterous balderdash!

Then another commenter provided the etymology “(Gk anthos, ‘flower’ + meros, ‘part’),” giving this (A Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory, by J. A. Cuddon, p. 41) as a reference. I wrote: “I don’t know on what authority Cuddon gives that etymology—it could be his wild-ass guess—but it would explain the -h-. Still a malformed word, though, because now there’s no explanation for the -i- (anthos + mer– should give anthomer-; cf. anthology).”

So I’m convinced the word exists, but I’m puzzled about who created it, why it has the form it does, and why it isn’t in the OED (which generally has pretty good coverage of rhetorical terms). Anybody know anything?


  1. The author of that cranky outburst was right.
    This is a misspelling of antimeria, I would guess popularized by Cuddon’s ubiquitous book. Antimeria was considered synonymous with enallage.
    I’ve picked out a couple of definitions in Latin (that predate Cuddon) that I was able to find on Google Books.
    John Holmes Art of Rhetoric Made Easy (1755) defined the word in this way:
    ‘Antimeria solet pro parte ponere partem.’
    Very concise, and it indicates the etymology (anti + mer-; the -ia suffix is obviously used to mark the word as abstract).
    In E.F. Poppo’s prolegomena to Thucydides defines the figure as:
    ‘ipsarum orationis partium earumque generum’ permutatio.
    Cuddon’s ‘flowerizing’ definition is a good example both of enallage and of folk etymology, albeit of a mistaken form.
    Incidentally, *anthimeria doesn’t appear on Google Books until 1960 (before Cuddon), but doesn’t really catch on until the 80s and 90s, after Cuddon had been published and republished.

  2. We will have to rename him “Chuddon”, a la Catullus 84.

  3. PS: I just pulled this up on JSTOR. K.R. Brooks, reviewing The Gothic Commentary on the Gospel of John by William Holmes Bennett (Modern Language Review 58.1, 1963, 87-88), noted this about typographical errors:
    “It is a small fault, but a pity, that two grammatical terms of Greek origin, descriptive of figures of speech, should be consistently misspelt : for scesis (onomaton), which occurs on p. 36 and elsewhere, read schesis; for anthimeria (p. 39), read antimeria …”

  4. Excellent—thank you, Dennis! Now listen up, everyone, the word is antimeria; the -h- is just a garden-variety typo.
    *bangs gavel, glowers*

  5. I wonder if the erroneous introduction of the ‘h’ in ‘anthimeria’ is by analogy to another (more common) rhetorical term ‘anthypophora’ – where there is a reason for the ‘h’ being there (‘ant(i)’, against, ‘hypophora’ allegation)…?
    Puttenham defines anthypophora as ‘when we will seeme to aske a question to th’intent we will aunswere it our selues’.

  6. Interesting that “anthology” and (French) “florilège” are constructed from the same parts, modulo language. French also has “anthologie”, but “florilège” is more, to say it in German, blumig.

  7. Thank you, Chris. I for one had never thought about the literal meaning of “anthologie/anthology”, much less connected it with “florilège”. It seems to me that an “anthologie” is a sample of representative works on a topic or by an author, while a “florilège” (usually containing poetry or songs) seems more celebratory, and perhaps more boastful of the perceived artistic merit of the contents.

  8. Florilegium and anthology are of the same wordgarland, yes. As for anthi- instead of anti-, may this not be akin to protho- for proto-, from the quills of those who considered -th- to be the hallmark of yer genuine Greek? (Compare Joseph Shipley’s very strange way of regularly transliterating τ as th, in his The Origins of English Words: A Discursive Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.) See prothonotary, prothocall, prothoforester, and even prothodaw, in OED.
    Incidentally, in OED we do find antimeric as an adjective from antimere. Quite a different bouquet from that to which ant[h]imeria is meric, of course.

  9. Ah, I now think that Shipley regularly has kh for κ, rather than th for τ. Working from memory – my copy is elsewhere. Same aberrancy, though.

  10. Note, also, common poesie / posy punning.

  11. Ah yes, Conrad. But note that poesy actually originates as what OED calls a “syncopated form of poesy (which, even when written in full, was often pronounced in two syllables)”.

  12. Bugger. Can’t seem to type straight today. I meant “that posy actually originates…”.

  13. Interesting that “anthology” and (French) “florilège” are constructed from the same parts, modulo language.
    Myself, I find this use of modulo interesting. I have been trying to sort it out for several years, now. All OED has for modulo is this:

    With respect to a modulus of. Also attrib., = modular.

    What does it mean though, exactly, in the sentence above? From the Wikipedia article, after its mention of the first meaning in mathematics:

    Ever since however, “modulo” has gained many meanings, some exact and some imprecise.

    Tell me about it! Wikipedia also has a useful article devoted to modulo as jargon.
    Some philosophers use it to mean something like with respect to; or sometimes something bearing in mind changes dependent upon, or “controlling for”, as in this example from the article Egalitarianism, at the excellent online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

    Moreover, in the role of consumer, each individual (modulo his location) faces the same array of goods and services on sale to anyone who can pay the purchase price (and can satisfy the relevant nonmarket conditions of the seller or maker).

    But compare this very typical use, from Mereology (yes, μέρος again) at the same Encyclopedia:

    On this reading the appeal to Leibniz’s law would be legitimate (modulo any concerns about the status of modal properties) and one could rely on the truth of (36) and (37) (i.e., (39)) to conclude that Tibbles is distinct from the relevant amount of feline tissue.

    See also this from the article Thermodynamic Asymmetry in Time:

    Modulo some philosophical concerns about the meaning of time reversal (Albert 2000, Callender 2000, Earman 2002), the equation governing the unitary evolution of the quantum state is time reversal invariant.

    Puh-leez. The content is hard enough, without the obscurity of modulo.
    See also the article Inverted Qualia; and the last I will cite is this, from Absolute and Relational Theories of Space and Motion:

    Fundamentally motion is possession of virtus, something that is ultimately non-spatial (modulo its interpretation as primitive force limited by collision).

    The dictionaries have not caught up.

  14. Very interesting—I had no idea! (I clearly don’t read enough philosophy.)

  15. I’m surprised that Languagehat’s encounter with anthimeria comes so late.
    I’ve used Corbett’s -Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student- for many years. He lists, and gives examples of, anthimeria among the rhetorical devices.
    J. Del Col

  16. Frankly, I don’t give a sit how you spell it.

  17. “Where you stand depends on where you shit.” —Not Miles’s Law

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