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  • Paul Anthony Jones


(adj.) of a mirror, able to show the future

For those of you who use Haggard Hawks as a writing prompt (and, by my beard, there are a lot of you), here’s a word to no doubt spark some suitably fantastical tale: an essomenic mirror is one that has the power to show or reflect the future.

As we mentioned on Twitter, that’s a word that dates back to the eighteenth century, when it was apparently coined by the writer and poet Philip Parsons.

Born in 1729, Parsons was chiefly a clergyman, but in his writing covered a mixture of subjects from essays on life after death and descriptions of English stained glass windows to the likes of astronomy, satire, and sport. In one of his works, Newmarket, or an Essay on the Turf, Parsons compares English horse racing to the Olympic Games of antiquity—but in suitably miscellaneous style, quickly becomes sidetracked in a discussion about magical mirrors. (No, really.)

A tateontic mirror, he explains, is one that has the power to show the whereabouts of anyone in the world at any moment. A proteontic mirror as the power to show the life of anyone who has passed away. And an essomenic mirror, finally, is a mirror that can show what is to be.

There is too another kind of mirror, which, now we are upon the subject, I shall just take notice of ... called the Essomenic—which has the singular power of representing things and persons in future times.

That word essomenic derives from a future tense form of the Greek verb meaning ‘to be’—so quite literally, this mirror shows what one ‘will be’ in time to come. The Oxford English Dictionary records no other independent use of the word essomenic in our language, so alas for such a striking word it’s fair to say that Parsons’ invention hasn’t much caught on. But that only makes it all the more interesting to us now.

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