Our philoprogenitive congressmen

From “A Candidate No More” (by Stephen Yaccino) in the NYT yesterday:

Representative Timothy V. Johnson of Illinois will not continue his re-election bid, despite winning the Repiblican Party nomination in a primary last month.

… Mr. Johnson, 65, cited a “strained” schedule and family obligations for his decision. He is a father of 9 children, 11 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren.

“One of my grandsons is 2 years old; I have seen him for a total of about 10 minutes,” Mr. Johnson said in a statement. “I have another grandson who asked me not long ago if I was ever going to come to one of his ballgames. I didn’t have an answer.”

So Johnson is philoprogenitive in both senses.

This posting is really just an excuse to use the excellent word philoprogenitive. The NOAD2 entry marks the adjective as formal and gives two senses, both of which apply to Johnson:

having many offspring: the philoprogenitive senator

showing love toward one’s offspring

Morphological note: NOAD2 lists one derived noun, philoprogenitiveness, in -ness. The learnèd derivative philoprogenitivity seems not to be attested, though OED3 (March 2006) lists a rare noun philoprogeneity for the second sense.

Social note: A generational spacing of 20 or 21 years — each generation beginning 20 or 21 years after the previous one — is sufficient to allow someone to be a great-grandparent at the age of 65. So Johnson and his family are given to relatively early child-bearing (though the average age for the birth of the first child varies considerably from place to place).


4 Responses to “Our philoprogenitive congressmen”

  1. Amy Says:

    When I saw this in the NYT, I was puzzled by the use of “father” in “He is a father of 9 children, 11 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren.” I would have written “He is the father of 9 children and has 11 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren.” After all, he’s not the father of his grands and great-grands. Or have I become a bit tetched?

    (Never mind that it took him only six terms in Congress to notice that he hadn’t spent much time with his grandkids.)

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      I noticed that too. I would have said the, though a isn’t unacceptable to me. Otherwise, a is to be understood as distributed across the conjuncts: a father, a grandfather, a great-grandfather. That’s not anything surprising or unusual.

  2. Bob Richmond Says:

    T.S. Eliot’s “Mr. Eliot’s Sunday Morning Service” (1919) begins (I quote from memory):

    the sapient sutlers of the Lord,
    drift across the window-pane.
    In the beginning was the Word.

    Eliot seems to have invented the word. To make his verse scan, the word has to be stressed on the “y” (on the second syllable).

  3. Double dactyl for Easter « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] Arnold Zwicky's Blog A blog mostly about language « Our philoprogenitive congressmen […]

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: