This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Friday, 28 June 2013

Word To Use Today: epigone.

The classical scholars amongst you will have clocked epigone as a Greek word straight away. Aha, you'll say: that word, despite appearances, will be pronounced ePIgonEE.

On the other hand those of you who don't know your Aries from your Echo will probably come up with an uncertain EpiGOHN.

And those are the ones of you who'll be right.

In any case, ancient though epigones may be, they are still to be found all over the place.

An epigone is an inferior follower or imitator.

So, yes, that's right, most writers of fan fiction are epigones. And so are writers of sequels to Jane Austens novels (which doesn't necessarily make the sequels bad, though they usually are).

Far too many directors of thrillers since Alfred Hitchcock handed in his clapper board are epigones, too.

In fact, every time anyone says they don't make them like they used to, an epigone is bound to be involved.

Politicians; new 'improved' fizzy drinks; there's an epigone to annoy us every day.

Name and shame, I say. Name and shame.

Word To Use Today: epigone. This word is Greek. It comes from epigonos, which means one born after, from epigignesthai, to be born.


  1. This is kind of similar (in an 'opposite way' kind of similar) to 'auteur', which is where someone (usually a film director) takes a piece and then puts such a personal mark on it that he becomes that film's author, rather than the original writer of the book or screenplay.

    The word 'auteur' usually carries the connotation of quality (as I've ever heard it, thought the OED makes no such connection). However, I suppose someone could be the auteur of an epigone, in that, say, I rewrote Hamlet in a very individualistic and distinctive style, but (of course) it was vastly inferior.

    Talking of which, did you hear that there's a project to rewrite the works of Shakespeare in order to make them accessible to a modern audience? Somehow I suspect that the word 'epigone' will find a whole new relevance in English.

    1. A project to rewrite the works of Shakespeare to make them accessible...

      I'd just begun to reel with incredulity and horror, there, when it occurred to me that there have been fools in every generation who have decided to do that.

      Some clever people too, eg Verdi and Bernstein.

      Good grief, though...all you need to understand Shakespeare are some good actors, and a designer with the self restraint not to costume absolutely everyone in nuclear fall-out suits or set the thing entirely in the dark.

    2. "I have worked with The Winter's Tale in many disguises" says Jeanette Winterson.

      Can't help wondering if one of them was the bear...

      Ah well. Let's hope it's all brilliant!