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Were-words 2:
Theriopsyche & Theriopneuma

By Lynna Landstreet/Lynx Canadensis.
Posted to alt.horror.werewolves on Sun, Sep 19, 1999.

In article <37E43BDF.E8903A46@ionet.net>, Uncle Wolf <tomtimb@ionet.net> wrote:

>> ?????=greek word for spirit?
> pneuma and psyche, or that's reasonably close, are the Greek words you
> are looking for. Since psyche is also the root for mind, hence
> psychology, you probably want something along the lines of theriopneuma,
> if I recall the declension and gender of pneuma correctly.

Pneuma has a double meaning, referring to both air or breath, and spirit, stemming from the verb pnein -- to breathe. So this leads to confusing words like "pneumatic", which can variously mean of or working by air pressure, or or relating to air or gasses, or of or relating to the spirit. Pneumatology is a 17th century term for the study of spiritual beings or phenomena, while the most widely recognized word derived from that root is, as Jaue pointed out, pneumonia!

Now, interestingly enough, psyche has a similar double meaning in the original Greek referring to "breath, life, principle of life, soul", although in this case the breath connection does not seem to ave been carried through to the word's English derivatives. Psychein is also a verb meaning to breathe (what the difference is between this and pnein is a question best left to someone who is more famliar with classical Greek than I am) -- but the adjectival form psychikos (root of the English word "psychic") means "of the soul".

Mind is not mentioned in any of the definitions for the Greek roots that I can find, but it is certainly the strongest modern English association with psyche. The only English words I can find that seem to carry the "soul" association of psyche are "psychic" and possibly "psychedelic" (from psyuche + deloun, to show, or delos, evident).

I'm not sure of the reason for the connection between breath and spirit in both the roots pneuma and psyche, but I suspect it might be connected with the idea of the soul entering the body with the first breath. In any event, the air connection seems to have been more strongly retained in English in the case of pneuma; psyche's most prevalent association, as you point out, as mind -- although that is nowhere attested to in its Greek roots!

So, theriopneuma and theriopsyche could both be workable terms for, essentially, animal-spirit, and could both be functional replacements for "phenotype". I'm no expert of gender and declension of Greek nouns either, but I think that judging from the construction of the word theriomorphic, the "o" is correct. In therianthropy, as in lycanthropy, it's elided because the root of the second half starts with a vowel.

The first would carry the less desirable alternate implication of animal-breath (or possibly animal-gas, which is something I really don't want to contemplate!) and the second animal-mind. Animal-mind is an interesting and not necessarily undesirable alternate meaninge, but it would probably appeal more to some people than others, depending on their particular view of therianthropy. Those who see it more as a state of mind would like this term, while those who see it more as an innate, possibly genetic or physically based condition, probably would not.

Lynx Canadensis
(a.k.a. Lynna Landstreet)

* All definitions, as usual for me, are from Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 10th edition.

(Update [January 20, 2005]: In the years since I originally posted this to the alt.horror.werewolves newsgroup, the word "phenotype", as used to indicate the type of animal someone identifies with, seems to be falling out of favour as more people become aware of the original biological meaning of that term. A newly coined word, "theriotype", seems to be displacing it, which while perhaps not as evocative as some of the suggestions above, at least means exactly what it should: beast-type.)


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