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Today's quote:

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Emoh Ruo


The Australia I came to in 1965 had screwed into countless facades the gilt ananym "Emoh Ruo". Indeed, the mock-Latin phrase was also an indie film in 1985, documenting the perils of our Great Australian Dream.

In theme and sound, the title evokes that great satire on Victorian society, Erewhon, a partially-reversed "nowhere" that Samuel Butler coined for his fictional utopia in 1872. For those who wish to appear educated but couldn't be bothered to read the book, there's an interesting clip on youtube.

Perhaps the most infamous ananym is Llareggub (work it out yourself!) of Dylan Thomas' "Under Milk Wood". You can read the book but the spoken word is more impressive, especially when it's Richard Burton's.

But in keeping with Dylan Thomas' "to begin at the beginning", what are ananyms, or the art of speaking backward? The ana– of ananym is the Ancient Greek word ana, which was variously used to mean “back”, “up”, “on”, “around”, “towards”, “throughout”, and just about every other preposition you can imagine. It’s the same root we find in words like anagram, analogy, and analysis, as well as in less obvious places like Anabaptist (literally “one who baptizes again”) and Anastasia (which means “resurrection”). The suffix –nym comes from the Greek word for “name”, onyma, which is same the root as in much more familiar words like synonym, acronym, pseudonym, and anonymous. So put together, an ananym is literally a “back-name”—a word formed by reversing another. Are you keeping up with all this, Des?

The corporate world is full of ananyms too. Oprah Winfrey heads up Harpo Productions, just as Yensid is the sorcerer in Disney's Fantasia. Then there's yarg, a sharp Cornish cheese first wrapped in nettles by the Gray family. While swimmer Michael Klim has now quit the pool to flog his skincare line called Milk. Even Count Dracula was an ananym fan. The sucker often hotel-hopped using the alias of Count Alucard.

There are towns called Adanac in Canada, and Saxet in Texas. Closer to home, there are the sister settlements of Colignan and Nangiloc just south of Mildura. Within Bundaberg's hinterland, you'll find the farming community of Degilbo, clearly a name born of municipal henpecking.

Sorry if I've moved forward too much about speaking backward, but that is what "Emoh Ruo" can do to me. Now it's time to watch the movie.

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