Thursday, July 24, 2008

It's only words

I've been going through my medical terminology workbook, and it's really kind of Dullsville for me. I mean, having trained and worked in the medical field for almost 30 years, I'm pretty familiar with most of these words and their meanings! They also don't give the Greek or Latin spelling or root, and that's what I'm interested in at the moment. I liked the challenge of relearning the Greek alphabet. (Maybe I need to get a Greek workbook...?) So instead, this afternoon I went back to an old friend, a book I first read in the second grade, Words from the Myths by Isaac Asimov. I recently recommended the book to Lori, who homeschools her daughter, after finding out that we have a mutual love of mythology.
This book fascinates me, because it lists many instances in which ancient words and names linger on in modern times, and believe me, there are many! Everything from the word "gas" to "uranium" to "titanic" to the Atlantic Ocean (both Atlas and Oceanus were Titans). The book is a dream-come-true for a philologist. <grin>
Considering that the Olympics are only about a week away, and that Ken and I are big fans of the competition, I found the history of the games especially interesting when I read about them again today.
The Greek gods and goddesses were believed to live on Mount Olympus, the tallest mountain in Greece, and were thus called Olympians. Zeus was the ruler of the gods, and every four years, games were held in his honor in southwestern Greece, at a place called Olympia Valley. Every four years was considered an "Olympiad."
These games were THE event in ancient Greece, and the winners of the games received much praise and glory. The first recorded games were held in 776 B.C., and continued for nearly 300 Olympiads before the Holy Roman Empire and its Emperor Theodosius viewed the games as a pagan festival, and stopped them in A.D. 394. (Spoilsport.)
The games were revived in 1896 as the Olympic Games, with the first modern version being held in the country of their birth, Greece. With brief interruptions during World War I and World War II, the Games have survived into modern times, continuing to honor--at least in name--Zeus and his fellow Olympian gods.
I love this stuff!
That's why I thought the Athens Olympics were so cool, because they used some of the same playing fields that were used in ancient Greece for the original Olympic games. How cool is that? I think the marathon ended in the original track field used way back then--can you imagine crossing that line in the stadium where athletes did the same almost 3000 years ago?! I wonder if they'll ever go back to how the Olympic games began, with its tradition of athletes competing in the nude? Of course, some of the uniforms today don't leave much to the imagination, do they? <wink>
To be serious for a moment, Ken and I are big fans of the Olympics, and are proud to support the American Olympic Team. While I love all kinds of sports (and you'll hear me talking about football a lot this fall, believe me), the Olympics are the purest form of athletics left in the world. They are a distillation of the best, the fastest, the strongest, from around the world, and I find it amazing to witness the athletes' competitive spirit and their pride in their country, no matter what that country might be. Let the Games begin! 
A couple more words for you, and then I'll be done with the "wordiness" (for now!). The Roman god of sleep was Somnus, and his name survives today in the words "somnolent," "somnambulism" (literally, in Latin, sleepwalking), "insomnia," and of course, the over-the-counter medication, Sominex. (Take Sominex tonight...and sleeeeep.) The son of Somnus was Morpheus, the god of dreams. The name Morpheus is rooted in the Greek word for shape, and dreams are shapes we see while we sleep. He gives his name to morphine, which brings sleep and relief from pain, and morphology, which is the study of the shape and structure of living things. And he has recently joined popular culture as the character Morpheus in "The Matrix."         
I'm only about a third of the way through the book, so there will be more. You have been warned.            


queeniemart said...

reading this is like having an interesting history lesson. I never knew any of that about the Olympic games. My dad and i used to watch them every year. HUGS

indigosunmoon said...

You and my Sister could probably talk for hours!  She's a world history teacher with a masters degree, and every time I need to know for instance I asked her some information on Henry the XII because I was watching The Tudors on Showtime.  She never flinched but knew the anwer immediately. I'm very proud of her, even though I can't stand her sometimes!  LOL

preciousone25 said...

Very interesting read, in fact, I may go check that book out.


helmswondermom said...

I just ordered the Greek and Latin Roots book on ebay.  I guess this one will be next?

buckoclown said...

Yes, I am a big athletic supporter :o)