Thursday, December 31, 2009

Nephelococcygia means CLOUD GAZING

Ever heard of “Nephelococcygia,”? I hadn’t, till today. Turns out, I have been a participant in nephelococcygia since I was a wee tot, lo those many, many moons ago. Nephelococcygia means “cloud gazer”. You know, sitting around, looking at clouds, and expressing “Ooh, there goes a bunny rabbit”, or “Wow, there are the Marx brothers”. I actually saw the Marx brothers in the clouds once, but that was a long, long time ago, on much better drugs than I’m permitted these days. The term “nephelococcygia” originates from the play “The Birds” by Aristophanes, 448-380BC. The term is Greek for “Cloud Cuckoo Land”, a utopian city in the clouds that the play’s main character, Makedo, convinces the birds to build.

“The Birds tells the story of an ordinary Athenian, Makedo, who sets out with his friend, Goodhope, to escape the hustle and bustle of congested city life. These old men are tired of the law courts, politics, false oracles, and military antics of their fellow citizens, and they resolve to seek out a place to live where they can end their days in peace and tranquility absolving themselves of their civic responsibilities. To this end, our heroes seek out the Hoopoe. This is the mythical king, Tereus, famous in Athenian legends and the subject of a renowned play by Sophocles (now lost). Tereus was once the king of Thrace and married to the Athenian princess Procne. He raped Procne’s sister, Philomena, and to prevent her from revealing the crime, he imprisoned her and cut out her tongue. But Philomena managed to inform her sister of the outrage, and in revenge, Procne killed her only son by Tereus, Itys. When Tereus discovered the crime, he took up his axe and perused the sisters, but the gods, taking pity, turned Procne into the nightingale (who we meet later in the play), Philomena into a swallow, and Tereus into the Hoopoe with its long, sharp beak.”

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