Sunday, March 24, 2013

Centaurs for Girls!

I’m not saying you’re going to write a fantasy novel one day. That’s up to you. But suppose you do sit down and pen a tale of swords and magic and weird sex, you may want to jump into it prepared with the kind of vocabulary that will endear to your target audience of nitpicking nerds. In advance, you’re welcome.
kentaurides (ken-tar-EE-deez) — noun: the female centaur.
Yep, there’s a special word for lady centaurs, even though they weren’t popular even back in the day. According to Wikipedia, the best-known in Greek mythology was Hylonome, and she’s only known for killing herself when her centaur husband dies in battle. That sets the bar pretty low for female centaurs making something of themselves. Perhaps as a result of not being all that interesting, these figures show up more in art than they do in literature.

second-century mosaic, via wikipedia
seventh-century relief inexplicably depicting medusa as a centaur, via wikipedia
Why would someone decide it would be fun to make Medusa into a centaur? Classical fan fiction, I would guess. A fun thing to note, perhaps: There’s a Wikipedia category for centaurs and another one for fictional centaurs, and not all the pages appearing in the former appear in the latter.

When I think about the logistics of a female version of these randy, barechested horsedudes, it seems logical that there would be a lot of the various geeky media, but I can only think of three off the top of my head. The “Pastoral Symphony” segment of the original Fantasia features some whose brazen toplessness seems surprising, given how the film was released back in 1940. (If Ariel and her type wore clamshell bras, should the Fantasia centaurettes be wearing horseshoe bras?)

And then there’s Golden Axe, a game that’s yielded some interesting bits for word nerds previously on this blog. In the second arcade installment f the game, you could play as a female centaur named Dora, who’s easily the most bad-ass character to get saddled with that name ever, even if her weapon is a weird, American Gladiators-style jousting Q-tip.


There’s also centaur Leela in the Futurama fantasy parody episode, but I’m not sure if this is poking fun at the lameness of “busty lady centaur” stock character (is a thing, maybe?) or just assigning Leela a role that’s awkward and unfeminine. Whatever the case (and whatever the fate of the horse-centric literature that will one day provide us all with a window in your psyche), know this much about this fancy new word kentaurides: As is the case with the related word centaur, we are not especially sure where it came from. The centaurs themselves we know come from the drunken, unholy union between stable boy and equine beauty. That’s just common sense biology. The wordy end of it, however, is a bit murkier.

Previous words of the week after the jump.

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