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“Far Less Byzantine Than Homosexuality…”

That’s a quote from Glaivester in a post entitled, “Lesbianism Sure Is Complicated.” I am here to register a complaint with this use of the word Byzantine here, and not for the obvious reason. I know that people routinely use the word byzantine to mean excessively complex, labyrinthine or generally confusing, but besides being an annoying holdover of anti-Byzantine prejudice this impression of intricate complexity has far less to do with the Byzantines than many might suspect. The Byzantines did have a bureaucracy with a number of different officials, each with his own functions, and I assume that it is from the alleged complexity of the bureaucracy (which is, of course, a function of bureaucracy itself, and not of any particular people) that has lent the Byzantines this bad name. But there is simply nothing about being specifically Byzantine that is inherently more complicated, much less excessively so, to justify the meaning of this word. So, there’s that abuse of language taken care of. Now we just need to reacquaint everyone with the proper meaning of iconoclast, and we’ll be on our way.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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