Make Your Editor Cry: Epitaph vs. Epithet
An epitaph is written on a tombstone. Specifically, the epitaph is usually the words inscribed on the stone, but it can also be a memorial statement about someone who has died. Epitaphs are usually grave (see what I did there?), but old ones can sometimes be unintentionally funny, like this one:
“Here lies Lester Moore/Four slugs/From a forty-four/No Les/No more.”
Famous for his comedic jabs at the City of Brotherly Love, actor and writer W.C. Fields once said he wanted “I’d rather be living in Philadelphia” as the epitaph on his tombstone.
The noun epithet is a descriptive nickname, such as “Richard the Lionhearted,” or “Tommy the Terrible.” In short, an epithet is a nickname or a description of someone. When it takes a turn for the worse, it can also be a word or phrase that offends. It’s not necessarily an insult, but these days it’s used that way a lot, like a racial or sexist slur. An epithet is the kind of thing people sling at each other, like “red-headed stepchild.” Mostly, though, an epithet is a description of someone, often a nickname, like if you’re tall and people call you “Daddy Long Legs” or “Long Tall Sally.”
Gregg Bridgeman is the Editor-in-Chief at Olivia Kimbrell Press. He is husband to best-selling Christian author Hallee Bridgeman and parent to three. He continues to proudly serve in the US Armed Forces and has done so in either an active or reserve capacity for more than twenty years as an airborne and air assault qualified paratrooper, earning a Bronze Star for his service. Most importantly, he was ordained in October of 2001 after surrendering his life to Christ decades earlier.