Wednesday, 12 June 2013

plural of the word 'nemesis'

Dark Currents, by Jacqueline Carey, is a great read. The plot is exciting and the heroine gutsy but conflicted. I'm enjoying the light tone of the story.

Jacqueline Carey allows Daisy to use delightfully complex words. Why would a young woman who's a part-time file clerk in a local police station, and grew up in a trailer park, know and use this vocabulary? Because she remembers the lessons taught her by her favorite high school teacher, Mr Leary, in his myth and literature classes. (As a teacher myself, I have to love the thought that we can make a difference!)

Here's an example of the way Carey slides complex vocabulary into the narrative:
"Nothing germane to the case," I said firmly. And yes, I was a bit pleased with myself for remembering the word germane and using it correctly in context. My old teacher Mr. Leary would have been proud.

And here's another part where Daisy visits Mr Leary:
He had a drink in hand, but he was  steady on his feet and he sounded lucid. "How is my favorite little eschatological time bomb?"
For the record, no, I don't know exactly what that means. It happens a lot with Mr. Leary. But I always appreciated the fact that he never, ever talked down to his students. 

Eschatological was a new word to me. At Merriam-Webster, I found it is:

1. a branch of theology concerned with the final events in the history of the world or of humankind;         2. a belief concerning the Second Coming, the resurrection of the dead, or the Last Judgment.

The word that really got our household talking was nemeses.

What a great plural. Here's the context:

...she'd hired her daughter Stacey, who happened to be one of my high school nemeses...

This got us talking about the plural of nouns ending in 'is'. For instance, axis becomes axes; crisis becomes crises; and diagnosis becomes diagnoses. So I suppose nemeses is logical as the plural of nemesis.

On the other hand, one family member argued that Nemesis is a name - of the Greek goddess of retribution - and therefore the plural should be Nemesises as in the plural of Jonases. Hmmm... a look around the internet doesn't support her theory.

And, strangely, there's a bike trail in British columbia called Plural of Nemesis. A quick look at some footage of people riding down it gives a hint about how it was  named.


Anonymous said...

Weird name for a trail

parlance said...

Hi, anonymous. Yes, I thought it was a very amusing name.

Vincent said...

Here's what the OED has to say:

Pronunciation: Brit. /ˈnɛmᵻsɪs/ , U.S. /ˈnɛməsəs/
Inflections: Plural nemeses.
Forms: also with capital initial.
Etymology: < ancient Greek νέμεσις righteous indignation, retribution, also personified as Νέμεσις (classical Latin Nemesis ), the name of the goddess of retribution < νέμειν to give what is due, deal, distribute (see nim v.) + -σις -sis suffix.