artophagous, creatophagous, euryphagous, lotophagous

And so at last the weekend for the weakened trundles towards us as a languid juggernaut. I will take my small cool folding computer and I will do a little work in the galleria of the art gallery, and then my eyes will dine on artistic creations: paintings, sculptures, architecture, and spectating humans. The latest exhibition in the gallery is by a noted European painter, famed for depictions of luxuriant corpulence. And then I will head home to rest, and in the morning we will load up a car and drive to visit family and have an almighty long-weekend feast consisting of… well, many people like to have “turkey and all the trimmings” but we’re going to be having “Chinese takeout” and “lots and lots of it” because it’s “easier.” And there will be wine, and after breaking bread and sharing meat I am very likely to lapse into syncope on a sofa for a time while nearby pre-teens plot the demolition of the universe.

I am, tl;dr, looking forward to an artophagous, creatophagous, euryphagous, lotophagous weekend.

I trust you know the suffix –phagous. It refers to eating; it is the Greek answer to the Latin-based –vorous. So, for instance, dung beetles are coprophagous; a sarcophagus (which is literally a ‘flesh-eater’) is sarcophagous (except when it seems to be better at preserving flesh than eating it). In the cellular biology of your immune system, the macrophages are the big eaters: macro ‘big’ phage ‘eater’. So you can see where today’s four words are going.

Artophagous makes me think at first of the aria from Tosca, “Vissi d’arte”: “Vissi d’arte, vissi d’amore, non feci mai male ad anima viva!” —“I lived for art, I lived for love, I never harmed a living soul!” But while I live for and by art, devouring it with my eyes, the resemblance is a lexical artifact. True it may be that we do not live by bread alone, but for all our pains we still need what French calls pain: bread. Classical Greek for ‘bread’ is ἄρτος, artos, and artophagous means ‘bread-eating.’

Creatophagous makes me think of eating a creator, or perhaps even eating the Creator (but that’s theophagous), but it is more about eating the creature, the created. In fact, it pulls on κρέας, kreas, ‘flesh’. If you are creatophagous, you get lots of creatine, which is present in meat. You are, in a more familiar (Latin-based) word, carnivorous. It is perhaps ironic (and perhaps iron-deficient) that one of the most creative people I know is not creatophagous – she’s a vegan.

Euryphagous is, in my experience, a word at least as much for North Americans as for Europeans. If your modus operandi is bouffer at a buffet, commit acts of gluttony at a smørgåsbord, take out your diet with takeout, then you are euryphagous: you have broad tastes. Greek εὐρύς, eurus, means ‘wide’, and if you are euryphagous you eat a wide variety of things. Which may, I suppose, include European art, but it may also include Chinese takeout.

Lotophagous does not, as I suppose you have gathered by now, mean ‘eating a lot’. But it can refer to a state of being after you have eaten a lot. Those who are known for lapsing into a hedonistic stupor after anaesthetizing themselves with food and drink, those who live for luxury and are amply entertained with pipe dreams induced by tryptophan, serotonin, or endorphins, are lotophagous.

The Oxford English Dictionary adduces a few examples. One from St. James’ Magazine in 1876 says “To some … it seems a positive advantage to put off the evil day on which they must seriously contemplate anything. For such ‘lotophagous’ specimens of boy or man we are not writing.” Another from Miranda: A Midsummer Madness by Mortimer Collins says “Weakened by fatigue and chloroform, he lay in a dozy lotophagous state, and watched the sky and sea.”

What lot is this lot? It is λωτός, lotos, ‘lotus’. You may remember the lotus-eaters from the Odyssey, dining on a food that made them all want to do little more than get high by the beach, get high by the beach, get high. And sit stoned alone in their backyard. And have joy and have fun and have seasons in the sun.

Well, however you’re spending your weekend, I wish you delicious words: artful, creative, bready, meaty, broad, stupefying, and a lot of them.

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