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January 05, 2018  |  Friday words #102  |  2114 hit(s)

I'm at a linguistics conference, one where today (Friday) we'll be voting on the Word of the Year, as chosen by the American Dialect Society and anyone who wants to show up and raise a hand. You're sure to read about the results over the next few days.

And speaking of words. Something that crossed my radar this week is the term groyper. This is another term that's emerged from the alt-right subculture. The groyper (A groyper? Just "Groyper"? Mr. Groyper? Protocol unclear) is a sort of mascot, like the blobbish Pepe the Frog, but with the particular pose of having his chin on his hands, like this:

The Twitter user Respectable Lawyer, from whom I got all this, refers to the groyper image as "a fatter, more racist Pepe for the true paranoid weirdos."

People in this subculture appear on Twitter with names like Groyper Washington, Irish Groyper, and Otto von Groyper, with their groyper avatar suitably decorated to match the name. By extension, then, people who use a groyper avatar are themselves known as groypers.

The name groyper appears to have originally been a user name on 4chan, at least according to the Know Your Meme site. It seems to be unclear what the name signified then, and how the name got transferred to the image. Perhaps by next year's Word of the Year discussions we'll know more.

Well, wasn't that pleasant. On to origins. I was kind of half-watching a documentary the other day in which Mary Beard was telling us about the Roman emperor Caligula. (Spoiler alert: a lot of the most terrible stories about Caligula might have been fabrications for political or personal reasons. But we don't really know.) Anyway, at one point she talked about a bridge that Caligula supposedly wanted to build between the Palatine and the Capitoline hills. The Palatine Hill, did we know, being the origin of the word palace? Why, no, Ms. Beard, we definitely did not know that. But we sure do now.

To be clear, Palatine is the name of one of the seven hills of Rome (Mons Palatinus). Romans built an imperial residence there, and the word genericized over the centuries from "emperor's residence" to be used for the official residences of lower sorts of people. From there it moved into the Romance languages. We got it in English via the Normans, where it appears by the year 1300. Even then it was also used to refer to any "large and splendid" (er, palatial) residence. Even so, I think that we do still preserve an echo of the "official residence" sense.

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Dennis Lone   05 Jan 18 - 5:26 PM

So "fake news" goes all the way back to 37 CE?

mike   06 Jan 18 - 4:43 AM

One might argue we have evidence that goes back as far as written records.