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How Do You Decode a Hapax? Also, What’s a Hapax? (2017) (atlasobscura.com)
47 points by brudgers 52 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 20 comments

The article mentions the Old Testament, but there's also a hapax in the New Testament: the "daily" bread in the Lor'd Prayer ('Our Father'):

> Epiousios (ἐπιούσιος) is a Greek adjective of controversial meaning whose only recorded appearance is in the Lord's Prayer. Although it is traditionally translated as "daily" in the phrase τὸν ἄρτον ἡμῶν τὸν ἐπιούσιον ("our epiousios bread"), most modern scholars reject that interpretation.


> The modern Catholic Catechism holds that there are several ways of understanding epiousios, including the traditional 'daily', but most literally as 'supersubstantial' or 'superessential', based on its morphological components.[14] […]

* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epiousios

Not the only one in the New Testament, but definitely one of the most juicy. Even Wikipedia calling 'daily' the 'traditional' translation is dubious: 'daily' comes from a particular Latin translation, not the earliest, nor the most common ancient one, nor the most famous.

A more denomination/sectarianism musing:


> Not the only one in the New Testament

What are some others?

There are more than 1500 NT hapax, and epiousios (and others) aren't exactly hapax (they appear twice ['dis legomena'], or more, though often in bits arguably copied from one source). A minority are names (e.g. Epicurean only in Acts 17:18), most are words that appear in non-NT texts (technically hapax, but often meh, obviously), most others (like 'epiousios') are compound word that are easy to understand (e.g. if you read an English writer saying 'she metathought about the problem' it wouldn't mystify you), but that still leaves plenty of oddities.

But the juicy ones have theological significance. If more significant, even simply compound words can generate debate, even words known outside the NT ('What did they mean in this context?'). Off the top of my head: Theopneustos (a hapax) from 2 Tim 3:16 is the forceful example (forceful for evangelicals at least). Authenteo in 1 Tim 2:12 is important in feminist theology. Arsenokoitai in 1 Cor 6:9 is a crucial question in LGBT theology (a dis legomenon, strictly, [oh hai 1 Tim, again], though I guess this post is allowing those ;)

Tanakh hapax are more difficult because we don't have masses of other/earlier Hebrew and Hebrew is less often based on compound morphemes. So 'OT' hapax are more widely known, imho.

Super interesting, especially considering that some people believe the referred to "bread" could have been some sort of hallucinogenic concoction, in particular mushrooms.

And, if that was the case, it would make a lot more sense that you wouldn't call it (or want it) daily, but instead you would describe it as "supersubstantial" or "superessential".

A potential antithesis to both 'daily' and 'hallucinogenic':

In french, épi is the ear: the topmost, superior, part of a grain plant. (leading to mathematical puns involving fields and sheaves, etc.)

If the FR ag usage reflects GRC ag usage, it would suggest the reading:

    Give us this day our grain-substance bread.
(no paleo bread for true believers?)

Unsubstantiated, yes, but it's the rentrée, so I probably won't be cultivating this topic before the weekend.

Edit: As counterevidence, modern greek botanists divide a cereal plant into blastos, phylla, stakhu and rhizos. Do farmers also use these terms in the field?

A different theory: gruel was usual, bread is a treat?

As always, Chinese takes this to the next level, since there are historical characters for which both meaning and pronunciation have been lost.

A famous one is 篪, used exactly once in the Classic of Poetry (1000 BC), whose meaning was unknown until another text surfaced describing it as a type of flute.


It annoys me slightly how - at least of the questions that make it to air - some are almost totally unanswerable unless you went to a private school and studied classics. I can sometimes go the best part of a series without getting a Physics or Mathematics one wrong, but some questions just do not represent knowledge actually held by all but few of the student populace (considering the name of the show).


Then again, if it comes down to Eloi and Morlock, you're part of the culture higher on the food chain (well, at least in the far, far, future).

It's not a cultural divide amongst academics, just that the questions often feel like they were drafted by recruits of the Cambridge five back in 1935. Quite often no imagination at all, i.e. You can usually get a point on most pop music rounds by guessing Bon Dylan.

I'd been hoping the Cambridge five were what the Sex Viri changed to after Haldane, but they added a member instead of subtracting one, becoming the Septem Viri in a fit (worthy of classically-trained cunning linguists?) of prudishness.


As to Dylan, Bob Roberts is worth a shufti. The soundtrack wasn't available at release, but from what I've seen floating around the interwebz, it, like The Onion, has been outstripped by reality.

Anyway: if the Cambridge five were more up-to-date, wouldn't they be setting questions like "which Alexandrov tune has been set to english lyrics by both Paul Robeson and Greg Camp?"

As an ex-competitive Science Bowl participant, I’m mildly annoyed by the extra stall time allowed by registering with a long last name and being able to prefix your answer with “is it” :/ In Science Bowl you’re referred to by {A,B}{1,2,3,4} and prefixing your answer is an instant stall disqualification. It’d be interesting to see someone go and train them to buzz based on the extra time they get…

Mispronunciation notwithstanding, that was fast and spot on. Impressive.

> Hence, “apoculamus” might be defined as “hauling your posterior away from” something.

we've found the latin term for "haul ass". brilliant.

We can see technical progress, too.

Consider ploxeni, the manure wagon, present among the ancients.

At the end of the nineteenth century, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Oppenheim invented the manure spreaderб so his students would have more time to study.


At the end of the twentieth century, Sir Tim (as he is now) invented the web (allowing further and faster spread of virtual manure[1]).


[1] by which I clearly mean a powerful substance that promotes growth, innit guv'nor?

I knew this phrase only from its appearance in NetHack, as a randomized scroll name (https://github.com/NetHack/NetHack/blob/NetHack-3.7/src/obje...). Since most of the other randomized names are nonsense words, I just figured this one was too. Interesting to see what it actually means.

I wonder if many of these were slang terms used regionally that would normally be excluded from most formal writing because people who knew how to read and write also spoke more "properly". Literacy rate has been low historically.

The atlas obscura is a literary and jounalistic rabbit hole filled with salt licks and honey pots.

Great site, I never spend less than 20 minutes there.

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