Saturday, August 28, 2004

Did you know?

I don't know why but this morning when I was reading the Washington Post, it set off a strange set of associations in my head. I started remembering the roots of words and their ancestry (I forgot the right term for the parentage of words. Help!). Once upon a time, I had embarked on a journey of finding out the origin of certain terms but that was a blue moon ago! Here are some I found interesting:
In ancient Greece, a philosopher called Zeno preached un-emotionalism and bland acceptance of life's ups and downs from his house's porch. In Greek, porch is called as "stoa". Hence followers of Zeno were called stoics and thence the present day English word "stoic".

The Earl of Sandwich was an extremely slothful man. All he loved to do was game a lot. In fact, he was so lazy that he wouldn't even get up to get his breakfast or lunch. He ordered his butler to bring him two pieces of bread with cheese and meat in between. And lo! a new food item was born and it was called Sandwich (of course, Dumbo, I hear u say!).

Sparta and Athens were always at odds with each other. Due to constant battles between the two neighboring states, the Spartans were always on their toes. They led spare, austere lives and were always military-ready. Hence the term "Spartan" to describe rigorous, bare lives.

Most of these, I remember, I learnt from "Word Power Made Easy". Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code" is another treasure trove of historical "did u knows".

As a kid, when I started reading Greek/Roman mythology, I was astonished as to how many regular English words actually derived directly from those civilizations. As I grew in years, I found subtle associations between the two and it made me appreciate the English language much better. From terms such as "Herculean", "Medusa", "Judgement of Paris", "Trojan Horse", "Narcissistic" to a bunch of others I can't remember.

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