SCG Daily Shot — What’s In A Name, Part 4

Dave continues his entertaining series examining the origins of various Magical card terms and names. Today’s dalliance through the dictionary deals with the letters O through S (and probably the number 8, in true Sesame Street fashion). Are you still struggling over the correct pronunciation of Phthisis? Mr Meddish has all the answers…

Back to the wonderful world of word origins! Where was I? Around O, I think.

Meaning lustrous or opalescent. Opals are rainbow-hued gemstones, not really shown in the Urza’s block Opal cards but nicely reflected in Opaline Bracers.

As previously noted, I pride myself on my large vocabulary, and yet, I had absolutely no idea what an orrery was. Fortunately, a quick search of the trusty OED revealed that an orrery is a clockwork model of a planetary system, like, wow, the one depicted on the card, imagine that. I guess that after the Hyalopterous Lemure incident, the artists are probably sent dictionaries along with the art descriptions.

I suspect, however, that you will actually have no reason to use the word orrery in a sentence outside of “that Vedalken Orrery has been sitting in my trade binder forever.”

One of my all time favorite words. The Athenian Greeks of ancient times practiced a true democracy, not a representative democracy like the United States; none of this supermajority garbage. If there was someone (most likely, someone either on the political down-and-outs or and up-and-rising pol that someone wanted preemptively removed from the picture) that a citizen wanted exiled from the city, they could call for a vote in the agora and the citizens would decide whether the named person should be given the heave-ho, and if the majority voted yes, then so long, Chesteridas, see you in ten years. Paper was a scarce commodity, having not yet been invented, so votes were cast either on oyster shells or potsherds. The Greek word for these materials is ostrakon, and from this our word ostracize evolved.

Pretty cool, huh?

A dungeon by which the only exit was a grate in the ceiling, it was impossible to escape without outside help. The word comes from the French oublier, meaning “to forget” – if you happened to be tossed into one of these, odds are you would be forgotten until it was time to haul out the corpse. No Alchor’s Tomb this, the card perfectly reflects, both in design and execution, what an Oubliette should be.

An elf or goblin, mischievous in nature. The word most likely comes from a misspelling or respelling of “oaf,” circa the 17th century.

An armored anteater native to tropical regions of Asia and Africa. The name comes from a Malay word “to roll up,” since they can roll into a ball to protect themselves, like the armadillo. They must grow them big in Dominaria, apparently, since the “giant” pangolin seldom grows longer than one meter.

Refers to the change of direction perceived in an object by moving the point of observation, most frequently used in astronomy, from the Greek parallaxis, “change.”

How does this tie into Nemesis’ Parallax cards? I have absolutely no idea.

This refers to the membranous skin that forms the wings on bats and flying squirrels. The origin of the term is unknown, but is believed to come from the Greek patageion, meaning “clatter.”

Clatter? Perhaps from the noise a bat’s wings might make, but bats are fairly quiet fliers. Word etymology can be a strange business sometimes.

Injurious, deadly, destructive. A deed of pernicious nature would indeed be quite the board-clearer.

Geshundheit. Phthisis (pronounced THAY-sis, now stop spraying your opponent with saliva when you cast it) is an archaic term for tuberculosis and now refers generically to any wasting disease. Creative really had to dig around the vaults to find this one.

A Roman title, indicating either a military commander or an elected magistrate, depending upon the period. Pronounced “PREE-ter.” Many Roman titles have survived into the modern era; “kaiser,” “czar,” and “tsar” and “qaysar” all come from “Caesar.”

I’m still waiting for Creative to find a home for Ebon Quaestor, though.

From the Latin meaning “the first one,” so Thriss, Nantuko Primus would be the first Nantuko. Or, he could be a Scottish bishop. My money’s on the former, unless he talks like Sean Connery.

The current, most accepted definition of sanctimony is “high-mindedness or false piety,” that is, if I was making fun of you for not knowing what sanctimony meant, then I would be being sanctimonious. The archaic, obsolete version of the word, though, is sacredness, which I believe to be the more Magic-like definition.

Then again, everyone knows what jerks those White mages are.

Reddish, bloody. There’s a secondary meaning that comes from the medieval belief that a person’s temperament was determined by the balance of humors in the body; blood, bile, phlegm, and black bile. I just report this, I don’t make it up. If one had a ruddy or reddish face, blood was thought to be the dominant humor and this person would be cheerfully optimistic or sanguine. Use it in a sentence? “Despite losing the first two matches, Dave was sanguine about his chances at States.” How about that?

I think the definition specific to Magic cards is closer to sanguinary, meaning “bloodthirsty,” but both words come from the same root. That said, I doubt we’ll be seeing a Phlegmatic Praetor or Bilious Guard anytime soon, but one can always hope.

A sword with a curved blade originating in the Middle East. Scimitars are used quite frequently in Magic (Dancing Scimitar, Leonin Scimitar, etc.), but there’s still a whole panoply of different bladed weapons they have yet to touch on, including falchions, flyssas, gladia, spathas, cutlasses, kriegsmessers, shashkas and mamelukes, to name but a few.

So how about fewer scimitars, more falchions, Creative, what say?

Scuta is the Latin plural for scutum, shield, which is why, I imagine, Phyrexian Scuta is covered in armor. It can also refer to the chitinous plate covering a turtle.

Seraphs are either the highest or among the highest classification of angels, depending upon which branch of monotheism you happen to subscribe to. If you’re keeping track at home, the Christian hierarchy is, bottom to top: angels, archangels, principalities, powers, virtues, dominions, thrones, cherubim, and seraphim. So should your Seraph tangle with an Archangel, you could argue that power and toughness is irrelevant, Seraph is trump.

According to the book of Isaiah, they have six wings. Six! Does Brady Dommermuth know about this? Criminy, they’re flying coelacanths.

A solifuge, or solfugid, is an arachnid related to but separate from spiders and scorpions. And they’re ugly buggers, too.

I’ve railed on about this before, but Solifuges are not insects, and they’re not Insects – they’re arachnids. Giant Solifuge should not be an Insect. I could live with it being a Spider, perhaps even a Scorpion, but Insect is just wrong, wrong, wrong.

And, yes, if you were wondering, I was one of those lunatics shouting at people on December 31st, 1999, trying to convince the uncaring that the end of the millennium was next year!

No, I’m not anal retentive. Why do you ask?

This one’s a bit of a mystery. It’s most likely an alternate spelling of cylix (the artwork for Golgothian Sylex seems to bear that out), but I haven’t found any dictionaries that use this spelling, and I strongly doubt it refers to Urza’s Coffee Maker. I’ll chalk this one up to Creative License.

See you tomorrow, same Dave time, same Dave channel, for the exciting* conclusion to this week’s Daily Shot.

* May or may not actually be exciting