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December 03, 2003

Mincing Words

At first I thought I misheard the radio ad for the new Alien box set. But no, it's actually called a quadrilogy.

The word that should have been used is "tetralogy." As the definition link explains, the etymology stems from the Greek tetralogia: tetra-, the prefix for "four" and -logia, which derives from logos meaning "word" or "speech." Tetralogia referred to the Greek presentation of four dramatic pieces on the Attic stage at the Dionysiac festival.

"Trilogy" refers to a three-part set of connected works, as indicated by the prefix "tri." "Quadrilogy" would seem to indicate a four-part set. Unfortunately, grafting "quad" onto "trilogy" isn't the way to do it. It's one of the most asinine word constructions ever coined by marketing people.

Yours, &c., LC | 11:48 AM | Writing & Language | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

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Funny, a cow-orker and and I were discussing this very manner this afternoon while looking at his copy. The only thing more asinine than "Quadrilogy" is the packaging that unsnakes all nine discs until it's literally about seven feet long.

Posted by: mrw at December 3, 2003 05:04 PM

I recall once noticing a bookcover that boasted it was part of the "longest dekalogy" in science fiction. I think it was by L. Ron Hubbard.

It's weird enough for a publisher to consider the sheer length of a book a major selling point, but the distinctiveness of being the "longest dekalogy" is impossible to assess.

Posted by: Scott at December 3, 2003 05:10 PM

You'd be surprised to learn what's actually going on in marketing people's heads. It's not linguistics, that's for sure. I'd like to know why a certain opera aria is so preferred to stress 'luxus' and posh lifestyle in tv ads, when the aria actually is all about suicide, desperation, and fierce glaciers. Marketeers.

Posted by: mademoiselle a. at December 3, 2003 05:24 PM

How about "Quartet" that has been respectable used in literary circle many times.

The "Raj Quartet" by Paul Scott for instance

Posted by: Kevin A Lewis at December 18, 2003 11:34 AM

Yes, I think "quartet" could work, but I doubt the Alien people would be interested. It doesn't sound cool enough; the word may be too prissy or orchestral for them.

Posted by: LadyCrumpet at December 18, 2003 12:47 PM