3 Apr 2006

Hoi Polloi

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Hoi polloi

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The hoi polloi raising their voices in protest
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The hoi polloi raising their voices in protest

Disambiguation: you may also be looking for Oi Polloi, a punk group.

Hoi polloi (Greek: οι πολλοι), an expression meaning "the many" in Ancient Greek, is used in English to denote "the masses" or "the people", usually in a derogatory sense. For example, "I've secured a private box for the play so we don't have to watch the show with the hoi polloi."

The phrase originated in English in the early 1800s, a time when it was considered necessary to know Greek and Latin in order to appear well educated. The phrase was originally written in Greek letters. Knowledge of these languages would serve to set-apart the speaker from the common people who did not have that education.

The phrase has been the source of considerable controversy over its correct usage. One debate has been over the usage of the English article "the" in front of the phrase. Also, the phrase has at times been used to meet the exact opposite of its originally intended meaning.

It is interesting to note that when hoi polloi was used by writers who had actually been educated in Greek, it was invariably preceded by the. Perhaps writers such as Dryden and Byron understood that English and Greek are two different languages, and that, whatever its literal meaning in Greek, hoi does not mean "the" in English. There is, in fact, no such independent word as hoi in English — there is only the term hoi polloi, which functions not as two words but as one, the sense of which is basically "commoners" or "rabble." In idiomatic English, it is no more redundant to say "the hoi polloi" than it is to say "the rabble," and most writers who use the term continue to precede it with *the* ...[6]

New media and new inventions have also been described as being by or for the hoi polloi. Bob Garfield, co-host of NPR's On the Media program, 8 November 2005, used the phrase in reference to evolving practices in the media, especially Wikipedia, "The people in the encyclopedia business, I understand, tend to sniff at the wiki process as being the product of the mere hoi polloi."[23] The blog Isengard.gov referred to the $100 PC project as being for kids and the hoi polloi. The post went on to refer to the correct usage of the phrase, "*Although we at Isengard.gov are using the greek phrase hoi polloi in its correct meaning of "the common people," rather than the incorrect but more hoi-polloish meaning of "the hoity-toities," "the fancy-living types," the "ravenous blood-sucking leeches fattening their stomachs on the backs of the masses," or "THE ARISTOCRATS!," it does not, in and of itself, indicate that we are insufferable smarty-pants. That may be established by independent means."[24]

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... Soy Hoi Polloi ~ el duderino



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