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RE: Pterosaur diversity (was: Re: Waimanu)

Nick Pharris wrote:

The original meaning of the root (in Proto-Indo-European) is pretty clearly 'eye' or 'see', but in Greek it usually means 'face'.

Generally, yes. The Greeks tended to use 'ophthalmos' specifically for eye. (The word 'ophthalmos' has the same root as 'ops'.) For example, the ancient Hellenistic king Antigonus I was nicknamed Antigonus Monophthalmus, because he only had one eye. The word 'ophthalmos' is incorporated in modern words and names like ophthalmologist, exophthalmia and _Ophthalmosaurus_.

However, the Greeks were a little flexible in this respect, because 'ops' appears to have been used for both 'face' and 'eye', as well as in a broader sense. Antigonus I was also nicknamed 'Cyclops', after the one-eyed giants of Greek myth - creatures that Adrienne Mayor would be familiar with.
:-) In this context, the '-ops' part seems to mean 'eye'. Other ancient Greek names appear to use 'ops' (masc.) or 'ope' (fem.) in the sense of face - like Calliope ('beautiful face') or Europe ('wide face'). The latter appears to denote something other than just the literal description of having a wide face, such as referring to a full moon. Other Greek names ending in '-ope'/'-ops' are similarly poetic, like Asterope ('star face') or Oenope ('wine face').

In modern usage, we have words like presbyopia, myopia and rhodopsin that pertain to the eye (specifically, sight).

There may be a subtle distinction, in that 'ops' and 'opsein' (to see) refer more to countenance or to the act of beholding, respectively, rather than to the eye as an object. Thus, 'ops'/'ope' is more abstract than 'ophthalmos', which refers specifically and literally to the eye itself. But this is just a guess. It's all Greek to me.



what I know of *Eryops*, the 'face' meaning would certainly seem to make more sense.

Nick Pharris
Department of Linguistics
University of Michigan

"Creativity is the sudden cessation of stupidity."
    --Edwin H. Land