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Friday, January 7, 2011

Iconic images

Today is Christmas for those in Eastern Rite churches, which are renowned for their beautiful icons – and I'm not talking about those little pictures on your computer screen! These paintings or mosaics of holy personages (sometimes spelled “ikon”) are objects of veneration. The word comes from the Greek eikon (portrait, resemblance), derived from a verb meaning “be similar”. In addition to the computer sense (dating from the 1980s), we now also use it for someone or something considered representative of a culture, as in “pop culture icon Madonna”. Definitely not the kind of madonna you will see in Greek and Slavic churches!

1 comment:

  1. Hello,

    The Romanian Orthodox Church is (I'm thinking) one of those "Eastern Rite" churches, yet it celebrates Christmas according to the Gregorian Calendar. (It is also independent - formally - of the Greek or Russian or any other orthodox church.) This was introduced in Romania in 1924, if I recall. Apparently, some other Eastern churches were/are unmoved by the argument. The specter of celebrating Christmas in summer was 10-20 thousand years into the future, at some point (after all, the Southern Hemisphere does it, yet we seem to know little about what their Christmas carols sound like). Now, that chance is quasi-nil, as people take constant care of the problem, tinkering with adding/subtracting extra seconds periodically, as needed. As I recall, Russia introduced the Gregorian calendar in 1917, but somehow failed to sway its church.



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Canada's Word Lady, Katherine Barber is an expert on the English language and a frequent guest on radio and television. She was Editor-in-Chief of the Canadian Oxford Dictionary. Her witty and informative talks on the stories behind our words are very popular. Contact her at wordlady.barber@gmail.com to book her for speaking engagements; she can tailor her talks to almost any subject. She is also available as an expert witness for lawsuits.