aquilegia (a-kwə-lē-jē-ə)

Rocky Mountain Columbine, the state flower of Colorado.

Spring is in the air and I decided to get to the roots of different flowers (yes, I know that’s a bad joke).  Let’s explore the word aquilegia, also known as columbine.  These beautiful flowers have delicate petals and have a star shape with yellow centers.  Some have long spurs that fan out behind the blossom.  Aquilegia comes from the Latin root aquil, meaning eagle. It is named this because the flower petals look like an eagle’s claw.  The Rocky Mt. Columbine, shown in the picture, has been Colorado’s state flower since 1899. Can you think of any words with the root aquil in them?

stygian (stijēən)

The National Mythology Exam is over, but here is one last word on the subject. The word stygian is an adjective  that means dark or gloomy. It is related to the River Styx, the main river of the Underworld, ruled by Hades.  Spirits must cross this river in order to enter the realm of the dead. Charon, the ferryman, would provide a boat ride across the river, only if the spirits could pay him. Ancient Greeks used to put a coin under a deceased person’s tongue to pay for the boat ride. If the spirits couldn’t pay, they would wander the banks of the Styx forever. The most solemn oath the gods could make was to swear by the River Styx. The four other rivers are, the Lethe, Phlegethon, Acheron, and the Cocytus. I’ve written about the River Lethe in a previous post.


sisyphean (sisəfēən)

To continue my theme of words that come from Greek mythology, I decided to write about the word sisyphean, an adjective that describes a task that can never be completed.

Sisyphus was a Corinthian king who fooled the gods many times with his wit. For example, when Zeus ordered Hades to take Sisyphus to the Underworld to punish him, Sisyphus pretended it was a great honor. He asked Hades why Hermes had not come to get him, since it was Hermes’ duty to lead souls to the Underworld. Hades could not formulate an answer and while he was thinking about it, Sisyphus wound a large chain around him. With Hades chained up, the world was in confusion because no one could die.

The gods got angry and threatened to make Sisyphus’ life so miserable that he would wish that he were dead, so he released Hades at once. The first soul to be claimed was that of Sisyphus. This time, Hermes came to get him. Sisyphus expected this and told his wife not to give him a funeral feast or put a coin under his tongue. Hades thought that his wife should be punished for not giving her husband a proper burial so he sent Sisyphus to go back to the Upperworld to teach his wife manners. Sisyphus rejoined his wife and they lived happily for many more years, for Sisyphus had tricked Hades. Finally when Sisyphus became old, he died and went back to the Underworld. To stop him from thinking of any more evil plans, Hades had Sisyphus roll a boulder up a hill. As soon as he got the boulder to the top, the boulder would roll out of his hands back to the bottom, and he would have to start the task again.

That’s it for now! I have to go perform the sisyphean task of stopping my sister from doing something destructive!! What sisyphean task do you have?