Monday, December 6, 2010

The Echt-Etymonday


This is a word I came across--for the first time in my life, I believe--in a 2003 New Yorker article in which Alex Ross claims that the Lord of the Rings movies, as an exemplar of their form (movies) transcend the source, as an exemplar of their form (novels). Here's how he put it:

"The books tell a fantastic story in a familiar style, but the movies transcend the apparent limitations of their medium in the same way that Wagner transcended the limitations of opera."

I'm not much of a judge of movies, so Ross may be right. Nothing can be higher than Tolkien in my interior life, so I can't really judge the novels fairly either, but I didn't like the movies much--but I haven't even seen The Return of the King, maybe when I finally get around to watching them I can appreciate them as great achievements in moviemaking and a worthy adaptation of the book I love the most.

Lords of light! Is that old news or what? Almost as old as our word echt (which Ross used as a prefix: "echt-Wagnerian," or something. He seems to like the word quite a bit.)

It means 'genuine' or the Real Deal. Here's the etymology, from Wordnik: 1.German, from Middle High German, from Middle Low German echte; akin to Old High German Ä“ohaft, customary.

The NOAD 2e tells us it was borrowed into English in the early 20th century--so we're lucky it wasn't replaced by "liberty" during the War Years, like in liberty cabbage.



Matt said...

If you didn't like the first two movies, the third probably won't change your mind. For me, the first of the movies was the best, and they went downhill from there. Just my opinion of course - don't want to invite any "all caps" rebuttals from fanboys.

Lord Gwydion said...

I like the LotR movies. I think they did about as good a job as one could do trying to translate the books to screen. Meaning, like Tolkien I don't think you can really get the books 'right' on screen, but as far as movies go, they were good and at least captured the feel of the books, IMO.

Still, the only real book to movie transition that I think got it 'right' was The Princess Bride. Likely because William Goldman is a screenwriter, so he did it himself.

Harald said...

As a point of interest, the Norwegian word for real/authentic is ekte.

As for LotR, I managed to enjoy them for what they were - really good, high-budget fantasy porn. As for the whole book-to-film problem, I agree with Lord Gwydion.

Aaron Nuttall said...

You know, there were only two things that bothered me about the movies: Galadriel's speech, which was the same as in the book, so I guess I was mad because it made the book look silly--or rather, it showed me that book sounded silly when said out loud--and the way Arwen, who was alive (I believe) in the death of Isildur shown as the prologue, is protrayed as a love-happy teenager instead of an impossibly ancient alien intelligence.

Those seem very minor now, and pretty foolish reasons to reject such an ambitious creation.