Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Lexical Curiosity: Platonic

I’ve had a troubling question floating in the back of my mind for several days now: why do we use the same word to mean having to do with the ideas of Plato as we do to mean a friendship with no romantic or sensual intentions? What does a Platonic friendship have to do with Platonic dialogues?

Well, I got frustrated and looked it up in the OED, an excellent resource for these sorts of etymological dilemmas. And I found the answer. Evidently, the term “platonic love” has been in use for centuries, and it was originally meant “to denote the kind of interest in young men with which Socrates was credited: cf. the last few pages of Plato's Symposium.”

So there you have it. The idea of platonic friendship, evidently, comes from Plato. Well, I’m sure people had them before Plato. But that’s why we call it what we do. I feel better already, knowing I won’t be arguing for a more aristotelian friendship with some of my friends and acquaintances.

5 comments:

kristen said...

hehehe, i love academic humor. can we still be aristotelian friends?

bethany said...

yes Kristen, we definately can. I am also open to cartesian relationships.

Sonya said...

:) I actually guessed that right away! Next time you have a puzzling question Bethany, just ask me! And you thought all I was good for was hip-hop references...

Just don't start a Snoop(Dog)ian relationship. We have no need for further "izzles". ;)

o1mnikent said...

The OED... good stuff. A couple days ago I looked up "bootylicious" on the OED and found a fascinating entry (which, as it happens, is the subject of my next blog post).

Remember this quote from the whiteboard in the wa office...?

"It's the Platonic image of mug." (referring to my white mug)

MattyA said...

What? Can it be? A Kent post - I'm so jealous. As for Platonic, does this mean I can only have platonic friendships with men? The definition seems to support the "When Harry Met Sally" hypothesis. So what type of friends are we, then, Kent? Edwardsian? Barthian? or maybe Pinnockian?