There are more words than I care to admit to that I first learned, that started with a capital letter. Epiphany is one. It’s one of those words that roll nicely off the tongue, with a hard fssst sound in the middle. Very satisfying to say. But it was not just a word, or only a feast day, it was a major event.
While Jesus was born to the Jews, he was made manifest, revealed, to the Gentiles when the Magi found him, twelve days after Christmas. I’m a Gentile, and i always thought it was sad it was called Little Christmas. A strong word like Epiphany should be enough. Revealed. Manifest. Very powerful words. It was a non-Latin word, not English, not one of the romance languages. Like the Kyrie Eleison, the only Greek in the mass, so it stands out when you sing. I like that.
There are not many of our feast days where we use the Greek, most are with Latin reference. But back to epiphany, in small letters. The word means a manifestation of a divine or supernatural being, a moment of sudden revelation or insight. I like that we don’t overuse the word in English. There was a time though, people would say “I had an epiphany.” No mention of what was now known, more that something was. Like a lot of words, epiphany has felt its fair share of abuse.
There are some words I’d like to use more. Epiphany is one. Catholic in the small ‘c’ sense of universal. But I wonder if today, readers, especially kids, would even know they are common nouns not just names. Sort of reminds me of the term ‘elevator’. In business school we learned that Otis designed the first vertical stairway. He named it an elevator. It has become a common noun, not a proper noun. Companies have spent a truck load of money protecting what could be common nouns, Coke, Kleenex, Xerox, just to name a few. They identify, they immediately bring up an image. Go into a restaurant and order a Coke, if they only serve Pepsi, the waitstaff will ask if a Pepsi is okay. Why, because it’s not just soda, it is a Coke!
With so many words being coined, made up, ginormous, selfie, ugh, functionality, which may be among the worst of them, it’s almost sad we’ve lost some great words. And it is fun to have an epiphany, to reveal, with sudden insight, what I think about common and proper nouns.