Zippy philaconfusion

(There will be a brief dip into a mansex-steamy Tom of Finland drawing, which might offend some readers.)

Today’s Zippy, in which philandering and philately are confounded:


Word confusions are very common; sometimes they are momentary failures to retrieve the intended word; sometimes they are misapprehensions about the target. Zerbina’s error is apparently of the first type, but she nevertheless has a complaint about Zippy’s attentions to her, though the cause isn’t philandering but philately.

The two words share an etymological component, the phil(a)- (originally ‘love’) part, seen also in philosophy, philodendron, pedophilia, Philadelphia, and much more. But this is scarcely obvious to modern speakers of English.

Item 1. From NOAD:

verb philander: [no object] (of a man) readily or frequently enter into casual sexual relationships with women: married men who philander. ORIGIN mid 18th century: from the earlier noun philander ‘man, husband’, often used in literature as the given name of a lover, from Greek philandros ‘fond of men’, from philein ‘to love’ + anēr ‘man’.

philanderer is roughly synonymous with womanizer, and is the closest English has to slut used  for women, but is hugely less censorious. (Slut for women has of course been extended to gay men, maintaining some of its nastiness in the process.) The adjective promiscuous is in principle applicable to anyone, though it seems to be used much more often for women and gay men than for straight men.

Note: the –andr– of philanderer is, as NOAD correctly points out, the ‘man’ root of Greek, which has another root sometimes glossed as ‘man’, but is better glossed as  ‘person, human being’ (see below).

The ‘man’ sense of –andr– leaps out in the pseudonym  Phil Andros. From my 1/6/11 posting “Pseudonyms 2: Samuel Steward”, where I note that Steward published a series of gay porn novels under the name Phil Andros (etymologically, ‘lover of men’):

(2) Oh, Daddy! Yes, a Tom of Finland cover.

I [once had] four Phil Andros books: $tud (1966), Below the Belt (1982), Different Strokes (1984), Shuttlecock (1992). Literate porn with a male hustler as its central character. (There are several more available as used books, but at exorbitant prices: My Brother, My SelfGreek WaysRoman ConquestsBoys in BlueThe Joy Spot.)

Item 2. Compare, from NOAD:

noun philanthrope: archaic term for philanthropist. ORIGIN mid 18th century: from Greek philanthrōpos, from philein ‘to love’ + anthrōpos ‘human being’.

There’s the ‘person, human being’ root, also seen in things like anthropology, (very roughly) the study of human culture — vs., from NOAD:

noun andrology: the branch of physiology and medicine which deals with diseases and conditions specific to men.

Item 3. From NOAD:

noun philately: the collection and study of postage stamps. ORIGIN mid 19th century: from French philatélie, from philo- ‘loving’ + Greek ateleia ‘exemption from payment’ (from a- ‘not’ + ‘toll, tax’), used to mean a franking mark or postage stamp exempting the recipient from payment.

So, what Zippy is passionately attached to is not women as sexual objects (or, for that matter, men), but postage stamps.

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