Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Corybanter

Meaning: Cotgrave:
Madly to run vp and downe, playing on a Cymball, and wagging his head, like one of Cybeles Priests; also, to sleep with open eyes.
Usefulness: 1

Logofascination: 1 (Depending on which wikipedia article you believe, the Korybantes either worshipped Cybele with drums and dancing and some soldierly drills - note the illustration on this article - or were a 'disorderly ecstatic following' accompanied by wild music and wine. It's also possible this was all a Greco-Roman cultural misunderstandings, or that they were in fact all of the above. Whatever the case, their name survives as a word to describe frenzied activity; one can be corybantic or corybantine or, if you prefer the French, corybantiant.)

In the wild: I found this in Cotgrave just last week, and then it turned up in Kory Stamper's plea for rationality on National (US*) Grammar Day. Among many, many quotable lines on grammatical overreactions and obsessions, she mentions "the corybantic orgy of less/fewer corrections."  


Degrees: 2 (Corybantine turns up in Book V, and is hence ineligible.)

Connections:  corybanter - Cybele

Which is used in: G&P, Book the Third, XLV: How Panurge taketh advice of Triboulet. Triboulet is a fool, and in attempting to make sense of his advice, Pantagruel discusses the role of foolish ecstasy in prophecy:
As in the like case, amongst the Galli, the gelded priests of Cybele were wont to do in the celebrating of their festivals. Whence, too, according to the sense of the ancient theologues, she herself has her denomination, for kubistan signifieth to turn around, whirl about, shake the head, and play the part of one that is wry-necked.
If Sir Thomas had known corybanter or corybantine, it would have turned up in this passage; he's not shy about his vocabulary. That's Rabelais' attempt at etymology, kubistan being Sir Thomas' rendering of Rabelais' Greek lettering.


*if we apply the naming principle used for the World Series, it's Galactic Grammar Day.

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