chimerical

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chimerical

Post by Archived Topic » Tue Dec 14, 2004 6:47 am

What is the true definition of "chimerical",

and where did it originate?

Submitted by nadia evans (london - England)
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chimerical

Post by Archived Reply » Tue Dec 14, 2004 7:01 am

This is surely a corruption of "chimera"..originally ancient greek (chimaera) for a she-goat (and later, oddly, French for a HE-goat! The original meaning has become sublimated, as it became also to mean a monster, something terrible in the imagination,or an unpleasant ghost, mirage, image...ot just something scary.
In the usage I have known it (popular English 1960-2004 it is usually used to mean something scary and beyond normal credibility, usually with ghostly or psychic overtones.
"Chimerical" I would guess much the same as the word "obligated" in the sense it has verbed, then adjectivated.
"Chimerical" would suggest, I think, something supernatural and not so nice in general (mis)usage.

Reply from Jonathan Bramwell-Smith (Congleton - England)
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Post by Archived Reply » Tue Dec 14, 2004 7:14 am

Actually not quite all I meant to say. There is the element of HYBRID here somehow, as if this monster is a BLEND of two things together...at a guess it may have been connected with the He and SHE elements, but Ken seems the goat's whiskers when it comes to comprehensological replies.
Reply from Jonathan Bramwell-Smith (Congleton - England)
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Post by Archived Reply » Tue Dec 14, 2004 7:27 am

For a technical discussion of "chimera" as widely used in biology try this link. http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/tiss ... imera.html
Reply from jan doe (Snowbird - I move - U.S.A.)
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chimerical

Post by Archived Reply » Tue Dec 14, 2004 7:41 am

In Ancient Greek, 'chímaira' just meant a she-goat. In Greek mythology, the name 'Chímaira' was applied to a fire-breathing monster in Lycia (Asia Minor), which had the head of a lion, the body of a she-goat, and the tail of a dragon - just the kind of pet you may encounter there once in a while. The term later got used in many ways, meaning, depending on the context, a horrible monster, a beast consisting of body parts of various animals, a mere fabrication of the mind that cannot exist in reality, or, in modern science, an individual (plant, animal) or even an organ consisting of tissues of various genetic origins. In Modern Greek 'chímaira' means a pipe dream or hallucination, whereas a she-goat is 'mia katsíka.'
Jonathan, I've yet to find a French dictionary that defines 'chimère' as a he-goat. Was that in times long gone?
Reply from Hans Joerg Rothenberger (Walenstadt - Switzerland)
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Post by Archived Reply » Tue Dec 14, 2004 7:54 am

"Chimera" (pron. "kai-MARE-uh" as I know it) has always meant, to me, the mythical beast described above. As a result, it's usage has seemed to include the concept of "seemingly mis-matched parts that form a whole." I know that the "chi" portion of the Greek word refers to the letter in the alphabet, X (see the Xmas thread for more on that), and "meros" means (or meant) "parts". "Meros" survives today in words like "polymer" (literally, "many parts", but meaning any of numerous natural and synthetic compounds of usually high molecular weight consisting of up to millions of repeated linked units, each a relatively light and simple molecule -- according to Dictionary.com).

Perhaps the "X (chi)" had the meaning then that modern English-speaking society (and users of algebra) has given it: mystery, the unknown, a cross, etc. Thus, the Greeks were describing this monster as a "mysterious cross-mixture of many parts of otherwise recognizable animals."

Of course, that's my conjecture, I could be completely wrong.

NdL 11Dec2004
Reply from Nathan Lansing (Seattle - U.S.A.)
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Post by Archived Reply » Tue Dec 14, 2004 8:07 am

Nathan, your idea has its very own charm, but it looks at ancient matters from a modern point of view in several respects:
a) In Greek, neither the word for a she-goat nor the name of that monster has an 'e' (epsilon) as in 'méros.' In Greek (both Ancient and Modern) it's 'chímaira,' not 'chímera.' In Latin it became 'chimaera,' and as with many other Latin words containing an 'ae' (praeiudicium -> prejudice, to name just one example), the 'ae' became an 'e' in English - hence 'chimera.'
b) As stated in my previous posting, the Greek word 'chímaira' primarily just means a she-goat. The Lycian monster got its name from its goat-shaped body.
c) The Greek equivalent of the Latin 'X' is not chi (which looks like a 'X'), but the xi (sorry, I'm afraid it's not possible to print the Greek letter here without upsetting some peoples' computers). Chi and xi had the same origin, though, and some versions of very old Greek alphabets wrote both the same way, mainly X-shaped. So you are not too far off the target here.
d) As far as I know, the Greek chi never had a mystical meaning besides its function as an ordinary letter. It had a numerical meaning, though. In the ancient Greek numerical system, X' meant 600, and ,X meant 600,000.
Nice try anyway. Sometimes such seemingly fancy explanations are correct. I liked it.
Reply from Hans Joerg Rothenberger (Walenstadt - Switzerland)
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Post by Archived Reply » Tue Dec 14, 2004 8:21 am

I think a godzillerical topic would beat this one. :-)
Reply from Eric Lamb (Fenton - U.S.A.)
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Post by Ken Greenwald » Fri Jan 07, 2005 10:52 pm

Nadia, First here’s the 'true' definition and modern usages of ‘chimerical':

CHIMERICAL:

1) Being, relating to, or like a chimera; created by or as if by a wildly fanciful imagination; highly improbable; unreal and existing only as the product of wild unrestrained imagination – imaginary <His Utopia is not a chimerical commonwealth but a practicable improvement on what already exists”— Douglas Bush>

2) Inclined to or indicative of unrestrained imagination; given to unrealistic fantasies; fanciful, unrealistic < . . . chimerical to demand that a government . . . should exercise the art of governing purely for its own sake”– George Santayana>

3) Usually ‘chimeral’ or ‘chimeric’: Of, related to, or being a chimera. <a chimeric tetraploid> <the chimeral nature of some ornamental plants>
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And here’s some additional etymolgy:

The word ‘chimerical’ first appeared in English print in1638 (see quote below). The word ‘chimera’ was borrowed from Medieval Latin ‘chimera’ and from Old French ‘chimère,’ both forms from Latin ‘Chimaera,’ from Greek ‘chímaira,’ monster, supposed to have been a personification of the snow or winter, originally she-goat, feminine form of ‘chímaros,’ a he-goat (but one that is one winter old). The word is related to ‘cheîma’ and ‘cheim#333;n,’ meaning ‘winter season.’ The word ‘chimera,’ as the fabled fire-breathing monster of Greek mythology, was first recorded in English in Wyclif’s Bible in 1382. It was first used in 1398 as a word in painting and architecture to describe any grotesque monster, formed of the parts of various animals. The meaning of ‘wild fantasy’ was first recorded in 1587. In 1832 it was used to describe any incongruous union or medley. In 1907 the word was first used in biology for an organism consisting of genetically different components

The Chimera was one of the most fearsome creatures in Greek mythology. A fire-breathing female monster, it resembled a lion in the forequarters, a goat in the midsection, and a dragon in the hindquarters. In addition, works of art often showed a goat’s head rising from its back. The Chimera devastated all in her path until the heroic Bellerophon astride his winged horse Pegasus, attacked her from the air, destroying her with a barrage of arrows.
<1382 “Beestis clepid CHYMERES, that han a part of ech beest, and suche ben not, no but oonly in opynyoun.”—‘Bible’ by Wyclif, Prologue, page 31> [fabled Greek monster]

<1587 “How could that CHYMERA haue come in any mans minde?”—‘De Mornay’ by Golding, xxv. page 378> [wild fantasy]

<1638 “The fire of Purgatory is rightly termed . . . CHYMERICALL, because a meere fiction.”— ‘Stricturæ in Lyndomastigem’ by Fealty, II. page 9> [imaginary, fanciful]

<1763 “Sir, this book . . . is a pretty essay . . . though much of it is CHIMERICAL.”—‘Boswell’ by Johnson, xv> [imaginary, fanciful]

<1832 “The exterior of the Church . . . is a CHIMERA in architecture, being Doric below, Corinthian above, and Ionic in the middle.”—‘Letters from Continental Countries’ by G. Downes, I. page 27> [an incongruous union or medley]

<1907 “(Adaptation of German) ‘chimär’: “An organism (commonly a plant) in which tissues of genetically different constitution co-exist as a result of grafting, mutation, or some other process.”— in ‘Berl. d. Deut. Bot. Ges.’ by H. Winkler, XXV. page 574>
(Merriam-Webster New Book of Word Histories, Barnhart Concise Dictionary of Etymology, Random House and Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Dictionaries, Oxford English Dictionary)
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