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Re: Hapax legomena

Posted by Smokey Stover on June 17, 2004

In Reply to: Re: Hapax legomena posted by Brian from Shawnee on June 16, 2004

: : : Other than the notorious example that the US Supreme Court refused to consider recently can someone give me some examples of a hapax legomena?

: : Sounds like a disease.

: There was a discussion on this forum not long ago, featuring a hapax legomenon. If you type "hapax legomenon" in the search box, you'll find the discussion. I believe the discussion conluded that the word "evermind" was created by JRR Tolkien and only used once in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Please, pretty please, what is the "notorious example that the US Supreme Court refused to consider recently"? I really want to know.
The Greek expression, hapax legomenon (in the singular,as Brian of Shawnee implicitly observed, plural legomena), means [something] once said, or, as it is used today (from OED): "A word or form of which only one instance is recorded in a literature or an author." One of the early authors of the OED, James Murray, coined the word "nonce-word" as an English equivalent. The typical use of the term is to identify a word which, because it occurs only once, is hard to define with certainty. An example cited by Joshua Whatmough is the word "ploxenum," used by Vergil in one of the Georgics. Commentators have always believed that it referred to some sort of farm wagon, but Whatmough believed he had pinned it down to mean "manure-cart." In the archives there is a reference to "scamels," used once in all English literature, evidently, by Shakespeare. There is also a reference to "evermind." But since this coinage seems well-defined, it seems not really to qualify. The same might be said for any number of coined expressions. If we broadened our understanding of "hapax legomenon" to include them, the term would no longer signify what it has hitherto, and become essentially useless. I suggest that we use, for "evermind" and other modern-day coinages, the term "coinage" or "coined term," and confine hapax legomenon to words which presumably were once an actual part of the language, but of which the meaning has become lost or obscured by the extreme rarity of its occurrence (that is, just once). SS