philodox

There is a certain class of odd ducks one will quickly have one’s fill of: the philodoxes. They are easily found, especially these days: Twitter, Facebook, and especially comments sections of news websites and YouTube. For some reason, some of them are even paid to appear on television or radio.

We may readily discount any etymological association with phallus or dicks, but it’s quite a coincidence of sense, as phallic imagery is readily used in unkind descriptions of philodoxes. In actuality, the philo is the same as we see in philosophy, philomath, and such like, as well as in Philadelphia (with an a in place of the o), and the dox is the same as in orthodox and paradox. But a philodox is not some mere orthodox philosopher – well, he or she may be, but usually not – and is unlikely to be a paradox from Philadelphia. (Phlox won’t come into it at all unless the person is a philodox on the topic of horticulture.)

What, then, is a philodox? Allow me to pillage a couple of quotations from the Oxford English Dictionary. Here is a line from the Eagle of Berkshire, Massachusetts, in 1958: “One grows weary of the sickening sophomoric twaddle of our local pansophic philodox.” And here’s from the 1609 Poetical Recreations of Alexander Craig: “No greater fools then Philodoxes fond, And such as loue opinions of their own.”

Yes, philo, from ϕιλεῖν filein ‘love’ and δόξα doxa ‘opinion, glory’: one who loves opinion, glories in opinion, loves the glory of his or her own opinion. In short, a person who is dogmatic (or at least inflexible) and argumentative. The word sounds like it could name an ox from Philadelphia, but the reality is all ox and never mind Philadelphia, unless that’s the subject of conversation. It’s someone most people would agree is full o’… well, not ducks or docks. It is often said that opinions are like assholes – everyone has one. In the case of the philodox, you have an asshole who has opinions.

So now you have a word as crisp, clean, and starchy as white table linen, dedicated to naming a sort of people for whom you and others typically use much earthier descriptors. It has a related adjective, philodoxical, which is how I came to be aware of it: a little while ago, Erin McKean (@emckean) tweeted about its wordnik entry. I’m sure you will want to use these words on occasion. I know you will have occasion to.

One response to “philodox

  1. Better not call her a philodoxy – she might have something to say about it!

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