Odd words: Epeolatry


The worship of words.

Though an appropriate term for this forum, it hasn’t achieved any great success in the world at large. It’s not even especially old, since its first known user, and presumably its creator, was Oliver Wendell Holmes, in his Professor at the Breakfast Table of 1860: “Time, time only, can gradually wean us from our Epeolatry, or word-worship, by spiritualizing our ideas of the thing signified.”

It derives from Greek epos, a word, plus the -latry ending from Greek latreia, worship, that turns up also in words such as idolatry. For some reason, epos lost out in the Greek-roots popularity stakes to logos. However, epic is from the same source, an epoist is a writer of epic poetry, and cacoepy means faulty pronunciation (a word suitably easy to say wrongly: it’s /kæˈkəʊɪpɪ/ ).

Its appearances are so few that the tag “obscure” attached to it in some dictionaries is all too apt. However, I did find it in a work called Anurada Negotiates Our Wobbly Planet, a self-published title of 2006 by Roger Day: “I read my dictionary for a few more minutes, until tiredness eventually brought my epeolatry to an end for the day.” (worldwidewords.org)

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