antebellum

Whodunit

Senior Member
Deutschland ~ Deutsch/Sächsisch
Hi :)

Why does "antebellum" cogently describe the "war before the essential war"? According to Latin, it could also simply significate "before the war":
  • ante = before
  • bellum = accusative case of "bellum" (= war)
  • Latin has no definite articles
I'm wondering about this because of several constructions. "My childhood was during the terrifying antebellum period" would describe the situation of the period before a certain war. Supposing that word meant "before the war" indeed, it would be possible to use it adjectively/predicatively as in "My childhood was still antebellum" meaning that it had been before a certain war, which doesn't sound right to me after all.

What do you think? Does antebellum mean "pre-war ..." or "before war" or both?

Thanks in advance. :)
 
  • fenixpollo

    moderator
    American English
    In the U.S., this term is used almost exclusively to refer to the period of time before the Civil War... a period around the years 1830-1860. I wouldn't describe the childhood as antebellum, but I would describe a time period as antebellum.

    I would say that "pre-war" and "before the war" are synonyms, so antebellum can mean both.

    My childhood was during the terrifying antebellum period.
    My childhood was during the terrifying pre-war period/period before the war.

    My favorite phrase using this term is "status quo antebellum". :)

    Hope it helps. Cheers.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    According to the OED, antebellum has a narrowly-defined meaning ...
    Previous to the war, i.e. spec. the American civil war (1861-5), the S. African war (1899- 1902), or either of the wars of 1914-18 and 1939-45.
    ... presumably the context sorts out one war from the other.

    I don't understand your "war before the essential war" reference?
     

    Whodunit

    Senior Member
    Deutschland ~ Deutsch/Sächsisch
    Okay, thanks so far. :)

    fenixpollo said:
    My childhood was during the terrifying antebellum period.
    My childhood was during the terrifying pre-war period/period before the war.

    In these two sentences, you juxtaposed "antebellum/pre-war" and "period", which I wanted to omit. Imagine the word "period" isn't there, would the sentence still sound correct to you? If yes, it's proved that "antebellum" can easily be used predicatively. If not, it can be used attributively only. :)

    Got it? Hope I'm not complicating things too much. :D
     

    Whodunit

    Senior Member
    Deutschland ~ Deutsch/Sächsisch
    panjandrum said:
    I don't understand your "war before the essential war" reference?

    I suppose I wanted to say "period before the (essential) war". By "essential", I meant that pre-war period is a part of an "entire war" consisting of pre-war period, essential or actual war, and post-war period. :)
     

    fenixpollo

    moderator
    American English
    Mr. Pollo said:
    I wouldn't describe the childhood as antebellum, but I would describe a time period as antebellum.
    While I wouldn't say this, one can say this.

    My antebellum childhood was terrifying. Abolition was a controversial topic in the antebellum South.

    It sounds more appropriate to refer to a time period as antebellum, appropriate but less natural to refer to the region as antebellum, and not at all common to refer to someone's childhood as antebellum. Why? The war didn't happen in the childhood... I mean, the soldiers fought on the battlefield and during the 1860's (or other years, as applicable), but they didn't fight inside the childhood. I see the childhood as external to the bellum.

    As far as differentiating between the pre-war period and the actual fighting: the pre-war period is the "pre-war period," and once fighting starts, it's "the war." The period before the pre-war period is the pre-pre-war period, or ante-antebellum. :D

    Better yet, it carries the name of whatever era that historians choose to put on it (such as "The Age of Enlightenment" or "The Gilded Age."
     

    GenJen54

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    fenixpollo said:
    It sounds more appropriate to refer to a time period as antebellum, appropriate but less natural to refer to the region as antebellum, and not at all common to refer to someone's childhood as antebellum. Why? The war didn't happen in the childhood... I mean, the soldiers fought on the battlefield and during the 1860's (or other years, as applicable), but they didn't fight inside the childhood. I see the childhood as external to the bellum.

    I agree with this completely.

    To describe one's childhood as "antebellum" does not fit with me. I would understand it, of course, but would think it an odd construction, at best. Afterall, as fenixpollo said, the childhood itself is not antebellum, rather one's childhood took place during the antebellum period, or during the "years leading up to the war."

    As has also been mentioned, in the U.S., antebellum refers almost exclusively to the period pre-dating the Civil War. In particular, one hears a great deal about antebellum architecture, which characterized the great Southern plantations and homes, many of which were destroyed during the war itself.

    Recently, the word was used when describing the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

    Many antebellum homes were destroyed along the Mississippi gulf coast.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I should probably add that I read the OED definition with some surprise. When I hear antebellum, it is pre-civil-war US that comes immediately to mind - not either World War or the Boer War.

    I wonder, is Whodunit asking if it is possible/ acceptable/ normal to talk about "...my childhood in the antebellum."?
    I would understand that to mean "... my childhood in the period before the American Civil War," and, almost certainly, that childhood was in the Confederate South.
     

    Whodunit

    Senior Member
    Deutschland ~ Deutsch/Sächsisch
    Okay, I think I should clear things up right now. ;)

    The "childhood" sentences was just an example and has nothing to do. It should have puzzled you so much. Sorry. :eek:

    I was merely referring to the fact that "antebellum" can be used attributively (before a noun) as well as predicatively (used after incomplete verbs: be, be called, refer etc.):

    I'm speaking about the antebellum period when ... (= attributively)
    The period before the Civil War was antebellum. (= predicatively)

    Do you think the second example sounds correct? If not, everything I wanted to know would be solved. :)
     

    fenixpollo

    moderator
    American English
    No, it does not sound correct. The period before the war WAS the antebellum period, and therefore it cannot also be described as antebellum.

    What your second sentence really says is: The antebellum period was antebellum. :confused:
     

    river

    Senior Member
    U.S. English
    You could say "I grew up in the antebellum South." "I lived in antebellum New Orleans." You could speak of antebellum attitudes or practices. "My childhood took place during the antebellum period."
     

    Whodunit

    Senior Member
    Deutschland ~ Deutsch/Sächsisch
    river said:
    You could say "I grew up in the antebellum South." "I lived in antebellum New Orleans." You could speak of antebellum attitudes or practices. "My childhood took place during the antebellum period."

    Yes, that's right. But that's not what I wanted to know: In your case "antebellum" is used attributively, i.e. describing a noun by being preceding it. What my original question was about was if "antebellum" could also be used predicatively, which you all negated.

    Here's the motive I've thought about:

    antebellum = before the war

    (no matter if this is logical or not):
    The most tragical thing in the American Civil War happened before the war. :tick:
    The most tragical thing in the American Civil War happened antebellum. :cross:

    According to my example sentence above, I think it should be:

    antebellum ≠ before the war
    antebellum = pre-war
     
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