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A paranymph is a ceremonial assistant and or coach in a ceremony. In ancient Greek weddings the bride and bridegroom were attended by paranymphs, and from this use it has been generalized to refer to attendants of doctoral students, best men and bridesmaids in weddings and the like. It can refer specifically to the friend of a bridegroom tasked with accompanying him in a chariot to fetch the bride home.
An obscure use of the word is as a spokesman for the bride or bridegroom, such as Cyrano de Bergerac towards Roxanne.
The word may refer also to a thought that is revealed only by a slip of the tongue, such as a Freudian slip, or a condition where such slippage is endemic.
In the Netherlands a pair of paranymphs (paranimfen) are present at the doctoral thesis defence. This ritual originates from the ancient concept where obtaining a doctorate was seen as a de facto marriage to the university. Furthermore the paranymphs would also act as a physical shield in case the debate became too heated, or as a backup for the doctoral candidate to ask for advice when answering questions. Today their role is symbolic and seen as a position of honour similar to a best man at a wedding.