New Word of the Day: Metaphrast

In a meeting today with my fellow Content Strategists, I was talking about the phenomenon where content is adapted from one format to another – for example, a TV show that’s made into a movie. My colleague Bob Maynard said “metaphrast” to identify this kind of occurrence, and I don’t remember every hearing that word before. A quick online search reveals that the commonly accepted definition is:

One who renders a text into a different form, as by recasting prose in verse.*

This is worded slightly differently from one site to another, but “prose into verse” seems to be the favorite illustration of the concept. Perhaps that’s what the ancient Greeks had in mind, but this is the 21st century. It’s the media age, so why limit ourselves? The only explanation I can come up with is that the word itself is not currently in fashion, so no one has bothered to update the examples in their definition.

Let’s see if we can reclaim this word in the service of modern content formats.

*A popular alternative definition I’ve seen several times is “A literal translator.” This strikes me as one of those definitions that’s deceptively simple – the more you think about it, the less sure you are what it means.

One thought on “New Word of the Day: Metaphrast

  1. This concept seems related to the idea that the content of every new medium is the old medium. The early content of television was radio. The early content of the internet was publications. I think what’s changing is that the phenomenon is not movement in a singular direction of “progress”. Perhaps we’re at the point where all media are fare game as content for all other media.

    Sanford Dickert (@sanford) tweeted this from a Video 2.0 meetup:
    “Television is a technology, a lazy term – come up with a better one.” Ned from NYTVF

    A short conversation ensued (I’m @mapkid):

    Anyway, fascinating concept.

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