4

I'm wondering what the opposite of a paean might be, or if there's such a word in English. I thought there was, but I can't think of it.

The example I'm using is that Ernest Cline's Ready Player One. It's a novel about a dystopian future where people spend all their time jacked into a virtual reality called the OASIS, neglecting nature and choosing not to live in the real world. Cline's work is a warning against the direction in which we may be headed. This seems to be, to wit, the opposite of a paean to technology. What would this be called?

  • 3
    How about naeap? A naeap of condemnation sounds just as pretentious as a paean of praise. And nobody would know how to pronounce it, either. – John Lawler Dec 29 '13 at 18:01
  • 1
    If we are going to make stuff up, why not naean, but pronounced nā' on, just to further confuse matters? – Michael Owen Sartin Dec 29 '13 at 18:19
  • 1
    ......a panning – Edwin Ashworth Dec 29 '13 at 19:52
10

Given that a "paean" is a "song of triumph, praise" (see παιάν, sub II, and I'm aware that English isn't Greek!), my inclination would be to go with "lament" or "dirge" (a song of death or defeat).

If you wanted to reflect the opposite of "paean", there is a corresponding term in Greek, θρῆνος, which comes into English as a "threne". The most recent example in the OED is from 1960, R. Eberhart, Coll. Poems 1930–60, p. 14: "The perfect lament, and threne of sorrow's throat". As an adjective, you've got "threnetic" which might apply nicely to the dystopia you're writing about.

Fairly obscure, it has to be said, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

  • 1
    In song form, it's known as a threnody, as in Penderecki's Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima. – aeismail Dec 29 '13 at 21:13
3

A jeremiad, from the Book of Jeremiah, is a lament and warning about the evils that are to come (because, as anyone over 35 knows, the world is going to the dogs).

A Philippic (from Cicero's speeches against one Philip) is a tirade of invective.

0

I'm not sure there's a proper English antonym, but German offers up a Trauerlied, or "a song of mourning." That's probably as close as you're going to get to an antonym for paean. The closest English word would be elegy, but that is more melancholic than angst-ridden.

If you are talking about an attack on something, rather than mourning what's lost, then screed probably fits the bill best.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.