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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Blituri (or blitiri) is a nonsense word used by Ancient and Scholastic philosophers.

Other words in this category from the same period are skindapsos, tophlattothrattophlattothrat (only used once, in The Frogs) and babazuf (less common).


Contemporary sources

Umberto Eco

"“blitiri,” like “babazuf,” is a term used by the late Scholastics to indicate a word devoid of meaning." --Umberto Eco in On Literature

Gilles Deleuze

"from Sextus Empiricus we learn that the Stoics had at their disposal a word stripped of meaning, "Blituri," and that they employed it in a doublet with the correlate "Skindapsos."" --The Logic of Sense, Gilles Deleuze
"There is only one kind of word which expresses both itself and its sense — precisely the nonsense word: abraxas, snark or blituri" --Difference and Repetition, Gilles Deleuze

John T. Kirby

(The term "blitiri" — most accurately, blituri — is used by the ancient Greeks as onomatopoeic for the sound of a harp string; too, it is used, by such late-antique writers as Sextus Empiricus and Diogenes Laertius, as Aristophanes [in The Frogs] had used tophlattothrattophlattothrat: to signify meaningless sound (John T. Kirby 2000).

Jordan Kirk

Two excerpts from Theories of the Nonsense Word in Medieval England by Jordan Kirk:

Along with its pair skindapsos, which Boethius employs elsewhere, blityri enjoyed widespread currency in the commentary tradition. It is apparently of Stoic origins, first attested in Diogenes Laertius, and long before Boethius’ time had come to serve as a stock example of non-significative utterance, much as homo serves more often than not as the example of a significative one. In Stoic logic a distinction is made between lexis and logos, that is, the word as significative and as a mere sound-shape. This distinction is preserved in the De dialectica of Augustine, largely unknown in the Middle Ages, although Roger Bacon—whom we will encounter in the following chapter—knew it well. Blityri and skindapsos are each meant to be a lexis that is not also a logos. Nor is their use restricted to the field of logic, as they provide both Artemidorus and Galen with instances of empty names. Paul the Deacon would give them as the Greek equivalents of titibilicium in one of the earliest appearances of what would later become, in the form Tutivillus, the name of the nonsense-spouting demon in the Towneley Judicium. Thus blityri and skindapsos are exemplary non-significative utterances. But, in fact, both words seem to have been less—or more—than strictly non-significative. Skindapsos is held to have been the name of a kind of lute, and to have developed a use as a placeholder for any other noun (cf. thingamajig, whatchamacallit). For its part, blityri appears to have been an onomatopoeic formation naming the noise of a stringed instrument (cf. zing, twang), and to have referred by extension to any non-significative sound. Even later, and still in many Romance languages, it comes to be used much as skindapsos had been, as a non-specified “something or other” and eventually “a person of no worth, a scoundrel.”

See hereceddy.

“On blityri and skindapsos generally, cf. especially Wolfram Ax, Laut, Stimme und Sprache: Studien zu Drei Grundbegriffen der Antiken Sprachtheorie (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1986), 195–99; Stephan Meier-Oeser and W Schröder, “Skindapsos,” Historisches Wörterbuch der Philosophie, 1996. --Theories of the Nonsense Word in Medieval England, Kirk, Jordan

Ancient and scholastic sources

Diogenes Laërtius

"a spoken word need not always signify something. For example blituri (βλίτυρι) is unintelligible, yet still it is a spoken word." --Diogenes Laërtius via [1]

Sextus Empiricus

Sextus Empiricus, Against the Mathematicians 8.133)

Ammonius Hermiae

while they can be written down, like human speech; some sounds are meaningful, though they cannot be written down, like the barking of a dog; other sounds are meaningless, but they can be written down, like the word blituri; still other ... --Commentary on Aristotle's De Interpretatione (Ammonius Hermiae), (tr. Versteegh 1977)

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Blituri" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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