Logogriph and Other "Logo"-Words
Bill Long 4/5/07
It's All In A Word
While reviewing the results of the 2000 Kids Spelling Bee, I ran into this word, which invites consideration of it and its neighbors.
Since time immemorial the concept of a riddle or enigma has been a part of both after-dinner storytelling as well as great literature. Samson propounded one to the Philistines: "Out of the eater came forth food,/ And out of the strong came forth sweetness" (Jud. 14:14). They couldn't figure it out. Oedipus was confronted with the Riddle of the Sphinx. The Book of Proverbs is replete with the "words of the wise and their riddles." Thus, it is not unexpected that we developed a whole vocabulary of words to describe various kinds of puzzles or riddles with words. We have seen that an ananym is just a person's name spelled backwards (John Dralloc is really John Collard); a lipogram is a writing where one letter is dropped out (normally a vowel); and an anagram is a "transposition of letters of a word, name or phrase whereby a new word or phrase is formed." You don't have to be able to use every letter of the original word in forming an anagram; you just have to be able to use some letters to form new words. I have also written about chronograms.
This then brings us to logogriph, which is of imprecise definition, but has to do with a word riddle. The word is taken from the French, but the French is based on the Greek--logo is "word" and griphos is a "fishing basket." In its broadest meaning it is just any anagram or puzzle involving an anagram. This definition goes back at least to the 19th century.* But the OED has a broader definition, too.
[*I found the following definition in an 1860 German work: "Der Logogyrphe besteht darin, dass man von einem Worte die Buchstaben auf beliebige Weise versetzt und dadurch andere Worter bildet," Friedrich, Geschichte des Rathsels, p. 20. "The Logogriph consists in the following: that one exchanges letters from one word in an arbitrary manner and thereby forms other words."]
It has: "A kind of enigma, in which a certain word, and other words that can be formed out of all or any of its letters, are to be guessed from synonyms of them introduced into a set of verses." Here we have words that are formed out of a set of verses or from synonyms of the words. One of the best examples I found of this was in an article describing some of Maurice Roche's obscure literary works. Roche writes about an "inscription...on an antique public urinal"--
The reader sees "RESERVOIR" but also "res publica erigere voluit ad irrigandum" ("the state wanted to erect this thing for irrigation.") Or, you could have the following phrase:
le logogriphe quie reToUchE------- TUE roche
"the logogriph which corrects"------"kill roche"
Other examples of logogriphs can be provided, but I think you see how they work: words or parts of words are taken out of a set of words or verses to form a new message. Sometimes, as we see with Roche's logogriphs, the resultant messages arrest, make one smile, or make one wonder. But that is what deconstructionists are all about...
Related "Logo" Words
Oh, before I get to other "logo" words, I want to make sure you distinguish the spelling of logogriph and hippogriff. Even though the last syllables are pronounced identically, they are spelled differently? Why? Because hippogriff is from a different root. A hippogriff is an imaginary creature, like a griffin (hence the "griff" part) but with hind-quarters resembling those of a horse. Some day I am going to learn all about hippogriffs and chimeras and the gyascutus and so many others, but not today... So, keep the distinction in your mind. Let's return to "logos"...
We know that logocentrism is a belief that meaning in texts, and possibly in life in general, is based primarily on an analysis of words. The profession of law, in which I partook for more than a decade, is a logocentric profession. I suppose some lawyers would love a government that was neither democracy nor oligarchy but logocracy, where words were paramount. But if you tend to honor words too highly, you may suffer from logolatry--the worship of words. Indeed, many who simply love words are really practicing logodiarrhe which we know more popularly as logorrhea--running on at the mouth with words.
But I am a person who is logofascinated, though I don't consider myself an epeolater/or (oops--another Greek word for "word" is "epos." In 1860 OW Holmes, Sr. introduced the word epeolatry as "word-worship"; but whereever you have worship, you have worshipers. So, I coin the term epeolater here.). It is my goal to be a logodaedalus. The OED defies this as "one who is cunning in words," and then provides some quotations that show how this word means "learned asses." However, since the adjective daedal means, in addition, "skillful" (like Daedalus in making the labyrinth), that is the definition I prefer. Thus, one of the purposes of this site is to cultivate logodaedaly and encourage you to practice it.
Finally, we have the words logogram (logograph is a synonym) and logomachy. The former is a single sign or character representing a word. Yet, logography, which only has a very few attestations in English, appears to be a kind of "long hand" where successive writers who hear a presentation only take down a few words, so that no noe has to take down the whole speeh. I will leave that aside here, since this word seems to be an invention that no one really wanted to cultivate.
Let's close with logomachy, even though there are several other "logo"-words. Logomachy is fighting over words. Much that goes under the head of academic discourse is really nothing other than logomachy. Matthew Arnold could speak of how the "barren logomachies of Plato's Theatetus are relieved by a half a dozen immortal pages."
Well, I just have to conclude that, at this juncture of my life, I am a bit of a logomaniac. But, at least I am not hurting anyone...