Daily Archives: October 19, 2009

myopic

Myopia is not exactly my opiate, but myopic is my kind of optics: when I make forays, I must not forget I’m a four-eyes, for I will otherwise have to squint, and all around will be a mite more mysterious. Get the pic? This word is one of that classically derived sort that have an at least equally common Anglo-Saxon equivalent, in this case shortsighted. Ironically, the Greek-rooted word is the shorter one this time. It does get used, as often metaphorically as literally – view and focus often travel with it, typically in reference to politics or academics (the phrase myopic foreign policy alone shows up on more than 22,000 web pages). And while the sound of it might seem to admonish me to keep my eyes open, it really does come from a squinting reference: a myopic person is, in classical Greek and also, if rarely, in English, a myops. OK, well, in the Greek it’s muops – the upsilon gets transliterated as a y because at the time the Latins were transliterating Greek the sound had shifted to a front rounded vowel, what even today the International Phonetic Alphabet renders as [y]. You’ll recognize the ops, anyway – not as in special ops but as in cyclops (which comes from words meaning not “one-eyed” but “round-eyed”). As to the my, it’s not a personal appurtenance (well, it is for me, but that’s not our focus); it comes from muein, meaning “shut the eyes” (or “close the lips”). Muein is also the ultimate source of mystery, but that’s a history that would take us too long to see through.