Friday, 9 August 2013

Weird Latin Word Origins

As some of you all may know, I just got back from a Latin summer school last week. This was fun, if very, very hard work, but I return to you all with: some funny Latin word origins.

Here are a couple of common ones to get us started:

audio- "I hear"
video- "I see"

Pretty neat, huh?

How about a few more interesting ones?

Aggero, aggerere, aggressi, aggestum- "to bring, add, heap upon" gives us "exaggerate".
Ambitio, ambitionis f. - "canvassing, currying favour" obviously gives us the modern "ambition".
Grex, gregis m.- "flock, herd" gives us "egregious". Don't believe me? If you're egregious, what are you but out (e) of the herd (gregi)?
Fingo, fingere, finxi, fictum- "to shape, form, fashion, contrive, make a pretence of" gives us "fiction".

And, my personal favourite:

Virtus, virtutis- "courage, manliness, bravery". This is derived from "Vir, viris, m." which means "man" and give us the much gentler concept of "virtue". But wait, I didn't give you a gender for that noun! Well, despite literally meaning masculinity it's a feminine noun.

Since it was a super short blog today, let's have another...

Burns Throughout History #6

Diogenes was a Greek philosopher. I have a feeling we'll return to him because (like most people on my blog) he was pretty damn awesome. Anyway, he's considered to have been one of the founding thinkers of Cynicism. He believed culture and society was incompatible with happiness, and so lived the kind of simplistic life that Medieval monks cultivated a thousand years later, only with rather less Latin chanting.

The story goes that one day, he met Alexander the Great in Corinth. Now, despite being a recluse of sorts, Diogenes was a famous recluse. Finding him enjoying a patch of sunshine, Alexander recognised him and asked if there was anything he could do for the great man. Diogenes squinted at him and said, "Yes, you can stand out of my sunlight".

Well, Alexander was thrilled. He declared: "Were I not Alexander, I would wish to be Diogenes!"

Diogenes replied: "Were I not Diogenes, I too would wish to be Diogenes."


For added bonus burn, there's another version of this meeting, where Alexander finds him sorting attentively through a pile of human bones. Alexander asked him what he was doing and he replied:

"I am looking for the bones of your father [Phillip II of Macedon], but I cannot distinguish them from the bones of a slave."


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