September 6, 2012

Your word of the day: "Spermologer"

Came across this one in my fitful studies of Greek. While St. Paul preaches in Athens the local philosophers taunt him and ask, "What might this spermologos [σπερμολόγος] be wanting to say?" (Acts 17:18).  The Liddell and Scott Greek Lexicon shows the word is a combination of sperma (σπέρμα) for "seed" and logos (λόγος), a noun from the verb legō (λέγω), in one sense "to pick up."   "Spermologos" originally meant some bird that pecked for seeds, but applied disparagingly to a person it means he is a "babbler," in Liddell's and Scott's translation.  So "What might this babbler be wanting to say?" taunt the Epicureans and the Stoics in the Agora.  But you can Paul a "spermologer," and the word shows up in the Oxford English Dictionary.

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