Saturday, April 20, 2019

Rare word #19: apophthegm

apophthegm - A terse, pointed saying, embodying an important truth in few words

Greek ἀπόϕθεγμα something clearly spoken, a terse saying, < ἀποϕθέγγ-εσθαι to speak one's opinion clearly, < ἀπό forth + ϕθέγγεσθαι to utter a sound, speak.

Normally we catch this word as part of the larger "Apophthegmata Patrum" which almost everyone knows as the "Sayings of the Desert Fathers" which every self-respecting Christian should read. Wikipedia describes it thus:
The collections consist of wisdom stories describing the spiritual practices and experiences of early Christian hermits living in the desert of Egypt. They are typically in the form of a conversation between a younger monk and his spiritual father, or as advice given to visitors. Beginning as an oral tradition in the Coptic language, they were only later written down as Greek text. The stories were extremely popular among early Christian monks, and appeared in various forms and collections.

The original sayings were passed down from monk to monk, though in their current version most simply describe the stories in the form of "Abba X said...." The early Desert Fathers and Desert Mothers also received many visitors seeking counseling, typically by asking "Give me a word, abba" or "Speak a word, amma, how can I be saved?" Some of the sayings are responses to those seeking guidance.
Interested? Give it a read here or get the very popular "Give Me a Word: The Alphabetical Sayings of the Desert Fathers, PPS52"

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