Pedantry: "Fast", please; not "Lent"

What is this strangeness to be found in use among English-speaking Orthodox people, and now seemingly found in calendars, of referring to all fasting periods as "lent"?

The word lent is from an Old English word meaning springtime.  Among Christians, it probably came to be used as a sort of shorthand for the lenten fast - literally, the great fast prior to Easter which, in the northern hemisphere where the terminology was coined, always takes place during the spring.

There are other fasting seasons throughout the year, of course, but some Orthodox Christians also call these by the name "lent", as though the word is some sort of synonym for fast, which, of course, it isn't.  It is not unusual to hear such expressions as Dormition lent, Apostles' lent, and so forth.  This makes no sense.  They are fasts, not lents.

I would be interested to learn what terminology is used in Russian or Greek, for example, to refer to the fasting seasons.  I assume that it is some word for "fast" and not a time of year.

Just saying.

4 responses:

Anonymous said...

Lent: same root as "long" - nearest modern cognate is "lengthen", which is what the daylight's doing at the time ...

Jon Marc said...

I have no idea what those Greeks ;-) call the fasts, but in Russian it's "post," with modifiers to denote which one. Gi'iz/Amharic also only use one word ("tsom") with modifiers.

I think this may originate with our brothers and sisters who don't speak English as a first language - God knows when studying other languages I've tended to use words in situations where they're not normally used, and I think in this case it's easy enough to hear "lent" and think, 'Ah, is being word for "post"!' (It's certainly how my godmother uses "lent.")

Pete said...

Haha, I was just pondering Father Thomas Hopko's book...

"Lenten Spring"

Michael Astley said...

Indeed, Pete! :-) A tautologous title if ever I saw one.

Thank you, anonymous, for the expanded etymology. That does make sense.

And yes, Jon Marc, I suspect you may be right. Still, native English speakers ought to know better.

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