This blog is for everyone who uses words.

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



Monday, 26 September 2016

Spot the Frippet: pythoness.




Painting by Bronzino from An Allegory With Venus and Cupid

Pythons, the snakes that squeeze the life out of their dinners, we know. 

Pythonesque, which describes something zany, absurd, and hilarious, we also know.

But pythoness?

The first pythonesses lived in Ancient Greece, where they gave out baffling advice and predictions ('the smell has come to my nose of a hard shelled tortoise boiling and bubbling with a lamb's flesh in a bronze pot' for instance) but nowadays a pythoness is any female soothsayer or prophet. 

They're often mothers.

Don't you go out without a coat, you'll catch your death of cold.

Eat your greens up or you won't grow up to be a big strong boy.

You'll miss the bus!

But of course pythonesses can be found wherever there are ladies who speak.

That'll put hair on your chest.

She'll leave him and break his heart.

Brexit means Brexit and we are going to make a success of it.

My own prediction is that you'll spot one before you've finished reading this post.

Spot the Frippet: pythoness. This word arrived in English in the 1300s as phitinesse, from the Greek Python, which was a dragon killed by Apollo at Delphi. The snakes are called after the dragon, and Pythonesque is called after Monty Python's Flying Circus, a strange and hilarious BBC television programme first broadcast in 1969.


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