Are you a deipnosophist without even knowing it?

by Lou on August 12, 2005

I love dictionaries. Most writers do. I was leafing thorugh one the other day and stumbled across a word I’d never seen before, one that has lots of applicability at the poker table. The word is “deipnosophist.” It’s a noun, and a “dyp-NOS-uh-fist,” as it’s pronounced, is someone skilled at across-the-table chit chat. Synonyms for someone skilled at conversation or chit chat would be a conversationalist, or a schmoozer.

I haven’t seen the word in any other form than a noun, but you could construct a verb form of the word by referring to anyone engaging in table talk as “deipnosphising.”

It’s not a new word, either. Deipnosophist comes from the title of a work written by the Greek Athenaeus in about 228 AD. The Deipnosophistes has been translated as The Banquet of the Learned or Philosophers at Dinner and is a work of some 15 books, in which the protagonist, ‘Ulpian’ hosts a leisurely banquet in which food, music, sexual mores, pornography, and other topics are discussed. Characters include a handful of grammarians, lexiconographers, jurists, musicians and hangers-on. The work provided much information about both the Roman and Greek world in late antiquity.

And now you probably know more than you ever needed to know about the derivation of a word that I’ve never heard in a poker context, though it’s one that clear fits.

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