In The Corner, Cliff May writes of the need for a neologism to name the academic study of one’s enemies, whether Communists, Fascists, or militant Islamists, “who they are, what they think, what they want, why they hate us and – most importantly – how they can be defeated”. He consulted Victor Davis Hanson, who suggested either ‘polemiologia’ or ‘echthrologia’: “the polemios root is for political/military enemies, the stronger echthros root would be for cultural, tribal, personal enemies”. I don’t know why Hanson didn’t use the Anglicized endings ‘polemiology’ and ‘echthrology’ — we don’t have professors of Astronomia and Zoologia –, but either way I much prefer the E-word, for three reasons:
- ‘Polemiology’ (from polemíoi, “enemies”) is confusing, since — at least to those who know their Greek roots — it sounds too much like ‘polemology’ and ‘polemicology’, either of which would mean Military Studies generally (from pólemos, “war”, and polemiká, “the things of war”, respectively). It’s also unclear how ‘polemiology’ (or ‘polemiologia’, for that matter) would be pronounced: ‘POLL-uh-mee-OLL-uh-jee’ is too sing-song,* ‘poh-LEM-ee-OLL-uh-jee’ just generally awkward, and Hanson’s -ia endings don’t help at all.
- All three of the conflicts named have been much more than purely military, and a reference to “cultural, tribal, personal enemies” is more or less what we want, though ‘cultural, tribal, ideological’ would be even better.
- Most important, ‘echthrology’ has just the right sound to it, an ugly sound for an ugly (though necessary) endeavor, as if one were clearing one’s throat while very sick. Wouldn’t ‘Professor of Echthrology’ look good on a curriculum vitae?
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*This pronunciation does open up possibilities for light verse:
favorite Naval A-
cademy class, . . .
I will . . . leave it to others to finish the rhyme. (Hey, I’m still stuck in the same rhythm!)
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