cryptography (kripˈtäɡrəfē)

Many years ago, I visited the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. One of the most interesting exhibits talked about the history of espionage and the need for governments to keep sensitive information hidden to maintain national security.

Cryptography is the study of techniques used for secure communication. It comes from the Greek roots crypt- meaning secret, and -graphy, meaning to write. Cryptography literally means secret writing!

Scytales are the one of the oldest forms of cryptography. Scytale comes from the Greek word, skútalon, which means baton or cylinder.

Secret messages were written on parchment or leather that was wound around a cylinder of a particular size. The recipient of the message could only decode it by wrapping it around an identical cylindrical rod. Scytales were created and used by the Spartans during military campaigns.

The International Spy Museum is one of the secret treasures of Washington, D.C. If you ever get a chance to visit, I highly recommend it.

neologism (nē-ˈä-lə-ˌji-zəm)

COVID-19 has contributed many neologisms to the English language. (photo from https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/10912106-181/sonoma-county-signs-discourage-nonessential)

The coronavirus pandemic is not only affecting our every day lives, but also how we interact and speak. The English lexicon has expanded in recent months – new words and phrases have been added to online dictionaries at a rapid rate to keep up with society’s use of these neologisms. A neologism is a new word, usage, or expression. The word consists of two Greek roots: neo- meaning new and -log- meaning word.

During the last several months, the words coronavirus and COVID-19 have been added to online dictionaries and these words have spawned the use of phrases like self-isolation and shelter in place. Although these phrases have been around for years, the coronavirus has given them new meaning. Self-isolation was first coined in 1834 to refer to the action of isolating oneself from the rest of society – now, it refers to self-quarantine in order to halt the transmission of COVID-19. Likewise, shelter in place used to refer to staying in one’s home under the threat of nuclear warfare. It now refers to a government mandated order to stay at home in the wake of coronavirus.

We are seeing linguistic creativity in social media, too. Slang words like coronacation (forced vacation due to coronavirus), zoom-bombing (disrupting a Zoom call), covidiot (insult for people who disregard public health and safety rules) are now part of our vocabulary. Acronyms such PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) previously used by medical personnel are now part of everyday vernacular.

COVID-19 has probably contributed the most neologisms to our vocabulary than any other significant event to date – however, neologisms have been added to dictionaries throughout history, often during times of social crises. For example, WWII brought us the word radar (Radio Detection and Ranging). In 2003, infodemic was introduced to our vocabulary as a result of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome). Infodemic refers to the misinformation that spread during the epidemic.

To explore and learn about the neologisms that have been added to two prominent dictionaries, click here for Oxford English Dictionary and here for Merriam Webster. Chances are you already know many of them!

toxology (täks-älə-jē)

Happy National Archery Day!

I’ve been on my school’s Varsity Archery team for two years now and find the sport highly challenging, yet relaxing. Our team qualified for the State tournament this year for the first time in school history! Unfortunately, due to the coronavirus, the competition was cancelled.

The Greek word for bow is toxon. The ancient Greeks often shot poison arrows at enemy troops. When Rome conquered Greece, the Romans adopted toxon into Latin. However, the meaning of the word changed – in Latin, toxon came to mean poison.

Very rarely, the Greek definition of toxon appears in English. So far, I’ve only encountered two words that have retained the meaning – toxophilite and toxology. You can read my post about the word toxophilite here.

Toxology is the study of archery and projectiles. The word comes from the Greek word toxon meaning bow and -logy meaning study of. Toxology is commonly confused with the word toxicology, which uses the Latin meaning and refers to the study of poisons. In fact, many familiar words in English use the Latin meaning of toxon.

Name That Animal: Challenge #10

What would you name this animal? Image from https://deutschstyle.de/15-kreative-tier-surreale-fotos.

It’s been a while since my last Name That Animal Challenge, so here it is!

Pretend that you are a scientist and you have just discovered this new species and you have the privilege of naming it. Scientists usually name new species by using Greek or/and Latin roots because the prefixes, stems, and suffixes are like building blocks that can be utilized in countless ways.

Your challenge is to name the unique animal in the picture above using your knowledge of Greek and Latin roots. Keep in mind that you can use characteristics like size, color, or shape to name this animal. Feel free to search my blog to find root words to help you. I’ve provided you a list of roots with their definitions to get you started.

Greek Roots

Root                Meaning
-morph-                   shape
-cephal-                    head
-dasy-                       hairy
-ornith-                    bird
-pter-                        wing
micr-                        small
ailur-                        cat
leuk-                        white
trich-                        hair

Latin Roots

Root                Meaning
-iform                        shape
-corp-                        body
-capit-                        head
hirsut-                       hairy
avi-                             bird
ali-                             wing
-feli-                          cat
fusco-                      dark

Greek roots usually link with -o-, and Latin roots usually link with -i-. What would you name this animal? Be sure to comment and let me know!

If you haven’t already done so, be sure to check out Name That Animal Challenge #1, Name That Animal Challenge #2, Name That Animal Challenge #3, Name That Animal Challenge #4Name That Animal Challenge #5, Name That Animal Challenge #6, Name That Animal Challenge #7, Name That Animal Challenge #8. and Name That Animal Challenge #9.

pandemic (panˈdemik)

The novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, is affecting the lives of people worldwide. Image from www.cdc.gov

A novel coronavirus, more specifically SARS-CoV-2, was named a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) a few days ago. Since then, the word “pandemic” has been in the headlines a lot. Let’s break it down.

According to the WHO, a pandemic is an epidemic occurring worldwide, or over a very wide area, crossing international boundaries and usually affecting a large number of people. Pandemic consists of two Greek roots: pan- meaning all, and dem- meaning people. A pandemic is something that affects all people. COVID-19, the disease that is caused by the coronavirus, has spread to all the continents (except Antarctica). As of yesterday, the death toll was 6,470 and the number of cases was 164,837.

The threat of COVID-19 is transforming the daily lives of people worldwide. People are panic buying essential goods and panic selling stocks. It is important to note that the word panic and pandemic originate from two different Greek words. Panic is derived from the Greek god of the wild, Pan. It is said that when Pan was in the midst of battle, he would release a great shout, scaring his enemies away and often causing mortals unspeakable terror, forcing them to flee from him.

In Louisville, Kentucky, schools are closed for two weeks, events have been cancelled, and gatherings of 50 or more people are discouraged. The streets are strangely empty as people stay home to contain the spread of the disease. What’s it like in your part of the world?

I hope everyone stays safe and healthy during this time!

hematite (hēməˌtīt)

Hematite, an important component of iron, is responsible for the many red pigments found on Earth.

Recently, a young speller reached out to me to ask a question about the word “hematite.”

Hematite literally means “blood stone.” The word contains the Greek root hemato- meaning blood and the Greek suffix -ite*, commonly used for minerals and rocks. The combining forms for blood also include hema- and hemo-.

An important rule in spelling is that, when combining roots, you shouldn’t have random letters left over. If we break the word hematite down using hemo- or hema-, then we would be left with -tite as the ending. The root/suffix -tite does not exist. This is the first clue that you’ve broken down the word wrong.

The more roots you study, the better you’ll be able to recognize them in the words you come across every day. I hope this insight is helpful to those of you studying for your regional competitions or the Scripps National Spelling Bee!

* -ite can also be used to indicate a person belonging to or associated with a place, tribe, leader, system, etc. such as in the words: Israelite, Londonite, and Lincolnite.

ouroboric (ôr-ə-bôr’-ĭk)

An ouroboros is a snake that eats its own tail. (photo from shutterstock)

Recently I read an article in CSO Magazine about how Nestlé is finally converting its packaging to recycled plastics. By continuing the ouroboric cycle of “make, use, reuse, remake, recycle,” companies can minimize waste and emissions that are harmful to the environment. While these cycles can be positive, they can also have negative consequences. Society’s focus on social media can often be an ouroboric cycle that leads to hours of lost time.

Ouroboric is an adjective meaning “self consuming” (Wiktionary). The word ouroboric actually comes from the Greek phrase “drakon οὐροβόρος” (ouroboros). Drakon refers to a serpent-like dragon. The word ouroboros comes from the Greek root oura meaning tail and bora meaning food. Ouroboros literally means a snake that eats its own tail (for food or otherwise).

The word ouroboros has a long history in mythology. In Egypt, the ouroboros symbolized the beginning and end of time, and was associated with the god of the Sun (Ra). It most famously appears in Norse mythology as the legend of the Midgard Serpent, the son of Loki and the sworn enemy of Thor.

Jörmungandr (or the Midgard Serpent) is a giant snake that encircles Midgard/Earth and is so long that he ends up swallowing his own tail in an effort to cling to the world. Jörmungandr symbolizes never-ending suffering. Over time and across religions, the ouroboros has come to represent eternity, the end of the world, or the schism of birth and death.

Name That Animal: Challenge #9

What would you name this unusual creature? Image from Twitter @animalhybrids

It’s been a while since my last Name That Animal Challenge, so here it is!

Pretend that you are a scientist and you have just discovered this new species and you have the privilege of naming it. Scientists usually name new species by using Greek or/and Latin roots because the prefixes, stems, and suffixes are like building blocks that can be utilized in countless ways.

Your challenge is to name the unique animal in the picture above using your knowledge of Greek and Latin roots. Keep in mind that you can use characteristics like size, color, or shape to name this animal. Feel free to search my blog to find root words to help you. I’ve provided you a list of roots with their definitions to get you started.

 

Greek:

branchio-                gills

-cephal-                    head

cerato-                      horn

ichthy-                      fish

-morph-                   form, shape

rhino-                       nose

 

Latin:

pisci-                         fish

-iform                       shape              

-corp-                        body

-capit-                       head

 

The letter “o” is the most common way to link Greek roots, and the letter “i” is used to link Latin roots.

My sister would name this unique creature biceratoichthyomorph. What would you name it? I’m looking forward to reading all the fabulous names you come up with so don’t forget to leave a comment!

 

If you haven’t already done so, be sure to check out Name That Animal Challenge #1, Name That Animal Challenge #2, Name That Animal Challenge #3, Name That Animal Challenge #4Name That Animal Challenge #5, Name That Animal Challenge #6, Name That Animal Challenge #7, and Name That Animal Challenge #8.

araçari (ärəˈsärē/ärəˈkärē)

Hi everyone!

When my family was in Costa Rica during spring break, we had a chance to visit the Toucan Rescue Center near San Jose. The Rescue Center cares for injured animals and in some cases, rehabilitates them and releases them back into the wild. The Rescue Center doesn’t just limit its efforts to toucans as its name suggests but also, sloths, owls, and monkeys.

The common name for the toucan featured in today’s post is Collared Araçari. Araçaris are small brightly colored toucans that belong to the genus Pteroglossus.

The genus name Pteroglossus comes from the Greek roots pter- meaning wing/feather and -gloss meaning tongue/language. Unfortunately, my pictures do not show the feathery tongue of the toucan. However, feel free to do a simple internet search to convince yourself that they do indeed have feather-like tongues!

The species name of this araçari is Torquatus. A torque (or torq/torc) is a twisted metal necklace worn by ancient Gauls, Germans, and many other ancient cultures. Torque comes from the Latin verb torquere meaning to twist or turn. If you look closely at the pictures of the araçari, you will notice a beautiful ring resembling a torq around its body.

The ‘Snettisham Great Torc’, is a treasure of the ancient world. It is made from an alloy of gold, silver and copper, and weighs over 1 kg. Image from http://www.britishmusuem.org

Can you think of any other words that contain the roots mentioned in this post? Be sure to comment and let me know!

Name That Animal: Challenge #8

What would you name this magnificent creature? Photo via galleryhip.com

It’s about time for a Name That Animal Challenge!

Pretend that you are a scientist and you have just discovered this new species and you have the privilege of naming it. Scientists usually name new species by using Greek or/and Latin roots because the prefixes, stems, and suffixes are just like building blocks that you can utilize in countless ways.

Your challenge is to name the strange animal in the picture above using your knowledge of Greek and Latin roots. Keep in mind that you can use characteristics like size, color, or shape to name this animal. Feel free to search my blog to find root words to help you or use the list below!

Greek:

cyno-                                                dog

hydro-                                              water

cephal-                                             head

enalio-                                              sea

-cephaly                                           head

-soma-                                              body

somato-                                            body

oceano-                                            sea

-delphus                                          dolphin, womb

 

Latin:

cani-                                                  dog

-corp-                                                body

mari-, mar-                                     sea/ocean

-capit-                                               head

aqua-, aquato-                              water

-delphin-                                         dolphin

The letter “o” is the most common way to link Greek roots, and the letter “i” is used to link Latin roots. However, you can do whatever you like and enjoy!

If you haven’t already done so, be sure to check out Name That Animal Challenge #1, Name That Animal Challenge #2, Name That Animal Challenge #3, Name That Animal Challenge #4Name That Animal Challenge #5, and Name That Animal Challenge #6.