February 20, 2007


Cassandra: n.
1. Greek Mythology: A daughter of Priam, the king of Troy, endowed with the gift of prophecy but fated by Apollo never to be believed.
2. One that utters unheeded prophecies.
ETYMOLOGY: Latin, from Greek Kassandra. [ca-SAN’-dra]
--The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, 2000.

Example of the Cassandra in use:

Even Senator Kent Conrad, the North Dakota Democrat who is chairman of the
Senate Budget Committee and the biggest Cassandra in Congress about the
perils of continued deficits, seemed to acknowledge that he had had trouble
convincing even fellow Democrats of the urgency of the long-term fiscal
problems.--WEISMAN, Steven R.
THE PRESIDENT'S BUDGET: NEWS ANALYSIS; Democrats Face Limits In Reshaping Bush BudgetThe New York Times, February 6, 2007

Bloggin' John Comments:
As in the example above, Penelope is almost always used as a noun in a figure of speech called periphrasis, the substitution of a descriptive word or phrase for a proper name or of [Nota bene:] a proper name for a quality associated with the name. [puh-RIF'-ru-sis]

Example of periphrasis:
"She may not have been a
Penelope, but she was not as unfaithful as the gossips made her out to be ."

[Penelope is the faithful wife of Odysseus in Homer's
The Odyssey. Thus, "a Penelope" = "a faithful wife."]
(443).--Corbett Edward P. J. Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student. New York: Oxford, 1965.

Penelope sometimes--though not often--shows up in adjectival form. There seem to be only two adjectival forms of Cassandra--Cassandran and Cassandra-like. Although I could not find these adjectival variants in any of my standard dictionaries or online, I was able to find them in two specialty word books, cited below.

• J. N. Hook, in The Grand Panjandrum, gives Cassandran, the more euphonic of the two forms. He notes that "Cassandra, daughter of Priam, king of Troy, was able to foretell unhappy events, but her direful prophecies were never believed. The adjective Cassandran came from her name.
"During the second Nixon administration, Cassandran journalists predicted the end of American democracy" (82).--New York: Macmillan, 1991.

• J. I. Rodale, in The Phrase Finder, offers an inelegant, patched-together
Cassandra-like. "Cassandra-like refers to Cassandra, the daughter of Priam, who had received from Apollo the gift of prophecy. Later Apollo, angry, ordained that her prophecies, which usually predict dire events, should never be believed. When she predicted the fall of Troy, she was declared crazed. Her name now is applied to any discredited prophet of calamity, and Cassandra-like indicates generally doleful predictions. "a prophet that, Cassandra-like, tells truth without belief" (409).--Emmaus, PA.: Rodale Press, 1954.


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