Xero- or Xeri-?

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Xero- or Xeri-?

Post by MissLa » Tue Feb 21, 2012 5:44 am

Greetings! New member here, opening with a question about the Greek root xeros. Before joining WordWizard, I did some poking around to find out which is correct -- xero- or xeri- -- and found that they both are, but which one is used depends upon what it's used with. I believe I learned that it's xero- when used in combination, as in xerophyte, and it's xeri- when followed by a vowel, as in xerasia (excessive dryness of hair), although the i is dropped. Why, then, xeriscape? And why do people who should know better (people who live in the desert) say "zero"scape? (If any of the above is in error, PLEASE do correct me!) Thanks much! Miss La
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Re: Xero- or Xeri-?

Post by Ken Greenwald » Tue Feb 21, 2012 8:15 am

aaa
MissLa, I’m no Greek scholar, but as best I can make out here is what the dictionaries (Oxford English Dictionary and others) are saying:

ξηρο-/zero- is the combining forms of the Greek word ξηρός /zeros meaning ‘dry.’ And as you said ξηρ-/zer- is used when combining with something beginning with a vowel.

The oldest word in the English language that uses this Greek base is the noun xerasia [1706] – A disease of the hair characterized by excessive dryness – which actually came directly from the Greek word ξηρασία/xerasia meaning ‘dryness.’

The next, of the ‘non zero-’ variety, is the adjective xerarch [1913] – Ecology: of a plant succession: having its origin in a dry habitat – from xer- + Greek ἀρχ-ή ‘beginning.’

Next is the adjective xeric [1926] – having or characterized by a scanty amount of moisture – from xer- + -ic suffix.

Xeriscape (capitalized) noun [1981]: A trademark used for a landscaping method that employs drought-resistant plants in an effort to conserve resources, especially water.

Etymology: From xeri- (Note: taken from the adjective ‘zeric’) + -scape (forming nouns denoting a view, picture, or literal or figurative landscape of a type specified by the first element). The word was coined by the Denver (Colorado) Water Department in 1981.

xeriscape (lower case) noun and verb: Loosely used as a generic for the capitalized, trademarked form.

As far as the “zero scape” usage goes, it’s the idea of using zero watering and was used before the word xeriscape ever existed. I actually used the word myself back in the early 1980s to describe the landscaping in the back of my house in Colorado Springs.

And, of course the combining form zero- (see above) is used in such other words as zerophyte and xerography.

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Ken – February 20, 2012
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Re: Xero- or Xeri-?

Post by Wizard of Oz » Tue Feb 21, 2012 8:35 am

.. xerox would be the shortest english word from this root ..
Xerox
1952, trademark taken out by Haloid Co. of Rochester, N.Y., for a copying device, from earlier xerography "photographic reduplication without liquid developers" (1948), from Gk. xeros "dry" (see xerasia) + -ography as in photography. The verb is first attested 1965, from the noun, despite strenuous objection from the Xerox copyright department.
WoZZoW
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Signature: "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

Re: Xero- or Xeri-?

Post by zmjezhd » Tue Feb 21, 2012 2:12 pm

Ken, I'm not quite sure why you keep giving zer- as a transliteration of ξηρος (ksēros) 'dry'. Ξ (ξ) is pretty much transliterated as x or ks. Ζ (ζ) as z. (To make things more interesting, ζ was thought ot have been pronounced as an affricate in Classical Greek /dz/, although I have never seen it transliterated that way.) I would say the standard combing forms are xero- before another root starting with a vowel and xero- in other cases.
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Re: Xero- or Xeri-?

Post by MissLa » Tue Feb 21, 2012 4:53 pm

Ha! Of course! Xeriscape is from 'xeric' and 'scape,' the latter shortened from landscape, to make the clever marketing word xeriscape. I did not know it was a trademarked word. Interesting.

Loved the history of the Xerox name!
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Re: Xero- or Xeri-?

Post by Ken Greenwald » Tue Feb 21, 2012 5:10 pm

aaa
zmjezhd wrote:Ken, I'm not quite sure why you keep giving zer- as a transliteration of ξηρος (ksēros) 'dry'. Ξ (ξ) is pretty.
Jim, Long time no hear. I don’t know any Greek and only know what I read in the funnies. The Oxford English Dictionary says that the two combining forms of ξηρός are ξηρο- and ξηρ-, with the latter being used when combining with a suffix beginning with a vowel. That’s all I know about it.
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Ken – February 21, 2012
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Re: Xero- or Xeri-?

Post by Erik_Kowal » Tue Feb 21, 2012 6:25 pm

So, Ken, I take it there is no family connection with the Greekwalds?
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Re: Xero- or Xeri-?

Post by Ken Greenwald » Tue Feb 21, 2012 6:38 pm

aaa
Erik, They're all not Greek to me!
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Ken – February 21, 2012
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Re: Xero- or Xeri-?

Post by xr280xr » Wed Dec 03, 2014 12:00 am

And why do people who should know better (people who live in the desert) say "zero"scape?
Well, this is an old thread but I thought I'd chime in. Being from the desert, I think it's because we don't normally use a word for a xeriscape. It's just normal landscaping. I grew up in Arizona and had never heard the word until I moved away. When you only hear someone speak it and pronounce it "xerə", it's easy to think it must be a sarcastic term (zeroscape) for our lack of green, leafy plants and traditional flowers.
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