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anagnorisis (an-ag-NOR-uh-sis) noun

The moment of recognition or discovery (in a play, etc.)

[From Latin, from Greek anagnorizein (to recognize or discover). Ultimately from Indo-European root gno- (to know) that is the ancestor of such words as know, can, notorious, notice, connoisseur, recognize, diagnosis, ignore, annotate, noble, and narrate.]

NOTES: If you've ever been to a movie involving two brothers separated at birth, one of whom ends up as a criminal and the other a police officer, you already know about today's word. Anagnorisis is the point near the end of the movie where the brothers face each other, notice similar lockets in other's necks (that their mother gave them at their birth) and discover that they are twins, drop their guns, and hug each other tightly.

Anagnorisis was originally the critical moment in a Greek tragedy, usually accompanied by a peripeteia (reversal), leading to the denouement of a story. An example is when Oedipus recognizes that the woman he is married to (Jocasta) is really his mother. Aristotle discussed it at length in his Poetics. He talked about many different kinds of such recognitions, e.g. by memory, by reasoning, etc. The worst, according to him, is recognition by signs, such as scars, birthmarks, tokens, etc. (including lockets!)

"A shame, though, that the anagnorisis of the movie, literally, the recognition scene, falls so short of the novel's heartstopping pathos."
Anthony Quinn; Film: Puddle Deep, Mountain High; The Independent (London, UK); Dec 26, 2003.

"... his latest book, 'Blinded by the Right,' in which he (David Brock) confesses that everything he wrote earlier in his career as a conservative -- before his anagnorisis as a born-again liberal -- was a lie."
Kathleen Parker; Let's Put Right-wing Conspiracy Issue to Rest; The Grand Rapids Press (Michigan); Mar 21, 2002.

This week's theme: Miscellaneous words


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