Merriam Webster defines koine thusly:

” koine • \koy-NAY\  • noun

a dialect or language of a region that has become the common or standard language of a larger area

Note:  Koine, which means “common” or “shared” in Greek, was the language spoken in the eastern Mediterranean countries from the 4th century B.C. until the time of the Byzantine emperor Justinian (mid-6th century A.D.). In linguistics, the word “koine” is applied to a language developed from contact between dialects of the same language over a large region. Basically, a koine adopts those grammatical and lexical elements from the dialects of the region that are easily recognized by most area speakers and dispenses with those that are not.”

This makes me wonder if maybe a possible alternate origin of the idiom “to coin a phrase” might be plausible.  As you may already be quite aware, “to coin a phrase” originally meant ‘invent a new phrase’, however it is now (unfortunately, in my opinion) more commonly used ironically to introduce a clichéd statement.  I’ve been scouting through the internet and I have found some commonly believed origins of the phrase, but they almost all revolve around minting coins or setting type in a printing press.  Timelines of the usage of ‘coin’, ‘coigne’ (and other various spellings) with pertinence to language and speech vary from 1500s to 1940s.   Shakespeare in Coriolanus (1607) writes:

“So shall my Lungs Coine words till their decay.”

What if the use of ‘coin’ or ‘quoin’ could be a bastardization over time of the the word ‘koine’, as in Webster’s definition above?  It doesn’t seem such a stretch…to make a phrase common usage or to standardize a phrase.  Koine.

Just a thought…

© 2008 D. Kessler

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