January 30, 2007

Word of the Day > Word of the Day: Deus Ex Machina

From Wikipedia:

Deus ex machina is a Latin phrase that is used to describe an unexpected, artificial, or improbable character, device, or event introduced suddenly in a work of fiction or drama to resolve a situation or untangle a plot (e.g., having the protagonist wake up and realize it was all a dream, or an angel suddenly appearing to solve problems). The phrase has been extended to refer to any resolution to a story which does not pay due regard to the story's internal logic and is so unlikely that it challenges suspension of disbelief, allowing the author to conclude the story with an unlikely, though more palatable, ending. In modern terms the deus ex machina has also come to describe a being, object or event that suddenly appears and solves a seemingly insoluble difficulty (e. g. the cavalry arriving). A classic example of this type of deus ex machina is Homer's Odyssey; a more contemporary example is Michael Crichton's The Andromeda Strain. The device is a type of twist ending.

The notion of deus ex machina can also be applied to a revelation within a story that a seemingly unrelated sequence of events are joined together by some profound concept. Thus the unexpected and timely intervention is aimed at the meaning of the story rather than a physical event in the plot. This may more accurately be described as a plot twist.

The Greek tragedian Euripides is notorious for using this plot device. The first person known to have criticized the device was Aristotle in his Poetics, where he argues that a good tragedy must remain plausible.

The Latin phrase (deus ex māchinā, plural deī ex māchinīs) is a calque from the Greek 'ἀπὸ μηχανῆς θεός' ápo mēchanēs theós, (pronounced in Ancient Greek [a po' mɛ:kʰa'nɛ:s tʰe'os]). It originated with Greek and Roman theater, when a mechane would lower actors playing a god or gods on stage to resolve a hopeless situation. The phrase is often translated as "god from the machine", where the machine referred to is the crane device employed in the task.

The pronunciation of the phrase may be a problem in English. The Latin phrase would originally have been pronounced something like ['de.ʊs eks 'maːkʰɪ.naː], in other words with machina stressed on the first syllable, and with the ch pronounced as in the word "mock"; but people may be influenced by the modern English machine ([mə'ʃiːn]), resulting in a mixed pronunciation. Some English speakers face further difficulties in pronouncing the e in Deus [e], which is only approximately rendered as [E] and is much closer to the e in pet.

A phonetical pronunciation could be rendered by "De-oose ex mah-kee-nah", with the "De" as is in "destiny", the "oose" as in "moose". "mah" is as in "watt", "kee" as in "bee" and "nah" as in "watt".

Previous WOTD - Theomachy

Posted by lesjones | TrackBack


Well I'm not braggin' babe so don't put me down
But I've got the fastest set of wheels in town
When something comes up to me he don't even try
Cause if I had a set of wings man I know she could fly
She's my little deus coupe,
You don't know what I've got.

Posted by: triticale at January 29, 2007

We need something like that to resolve this whole term limit mess.

Posted by: ANGRYWOLF at January 30, 2007
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