Saturday, March 25, 2006

Word of the Week – Megalotic

The more I live, the more I learn;
The more I learn, the more I realise the less I know.

That quote has been a favourite of mine for many years. Today, it is most apt. Firstly, because I have never found out who originally said it. (If you should know, then please tell me.) Secondly, because the precise meaning of today’s chosen word has almost eluded me.

I first came across the word ‘megalotic’ in an article by Mandrake in The Sunday Telegraph (5th March 2006). It read:

“…the BBC has picked its megalotic former political editor Andrew Marr to front its coverage of the Queen's 80th birthday celebrations next month.”

My immediate thought was along the lines of how unkind it was for Mandrake to publicly refer to Marr’s prominent facial features. Then, certain areas of higher intellect kicked in and started to question such an assumption. I mentally eliminated ears and nose from the meaning of lotic; the Latin and Greek origins of these words are different. So, what did he mean?

Cue the New Oxford Dictionary of English. ‘Megalotic’ wasn’t listed in there. Out came the blockbuster, the twenty volumes of The Oxford English Dictionary (OED). That, too, failed to deliver.

Oh well, there is always the internet. That has the answer to everything. Or so I thought. I entered the word ‘Megalotic’ into the Google search box and waited. Up came five pages of sites wherein the word was featured. However, all but two were in Japanese! The only piece of English within them was reference to ‘megalotic messiah’.

The two English sites were not very helpful either. The first gave reference to the Western Harvest Mouse, known scientifically as Reithrodontomys megalotis. This was in an article about a Government sponsored, military testing site in Idaho, USA. The second site was a direct reference to Mandrake’s article in The Sunday Telegraph.

I had gone full-circle.

Breaking the word down, one is left with mega and lotic. Mega is Greek, meaning ‘great’. Lotic derives from Latin, lotus, meaning ‘washing’. The OED defines lotic as an ecological term meaning ‘of fresh-water organisms or habitats, situated in rapidly moving water.’ Ecology is, of course, that branch of science relating to the study of how different organisms relate to, and interact with, each other.

So, finally, I think I am getting near to an understanding of the meaning of the word ‘megalotic’; at least in terms of Andrew Marr. He was, of course, at one time the BBC’s Political Editor. Most recently, he has been holding his own Sunday morning guest show, having assumed David Frost’s crown. In the Sunday Telegraph article, he is reported to have dislodged David Dimbleby from the important post for reporting major Royal events. I guess that Mandrake is therefore using the term ‘megalotic’ to describe Marr as a ‘major organism’ which moves in the ‘rapid waters’ of political and social life.

An interesting word and an even more interesting application. It certainly gave me food for thought. If anyone has additional comments, please feel free to add to this scholastic debate!

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