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.

syzygy (si-zə-jē)

On August 21, 2017, millions of people in North America witnessed a rare astronomical event – a total eclipse of the Sun. This occurs when the Moon’s orbit aligns with the Earth and Sun.

When the Moon passes in front of the Sun, it casts two different types of shadows on Earth, the umbral shadow (umbra literally means “shadow” in Latin) and penumbral shadow. The umbral shadow is quite small, while the penumbral shadow covers a larger area of the Earth’s surface. In order to experience a total eclipse, you must be within the umbral shadow, or the path of totality, during the time of the eclipse.

The path of totality on August 21st was 70 miles wide, starting in Oregon and ending in South Carolina. However, everyone in the United States experienced a partial eclipse, even if they were not in the path of totality.

In Hopkinsville, Kentucky, syzygy* occurred for 2 minutes and 40 seconds. This was one of the longest periods of totality that could be viewed in the United States. Hopkinsville is a relatively short drive from our house and we decided to make the trek for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We drove to a friend’s farm and sat in a quiet, open, field to watch this awe-inspiring event.

At the time of totality, the birds stopped singing, the cicadas started chirping, and darkness fell upon us. There was a peaceful white light emanating from the Sun and it was beautiful. We even witnessed the dazzling “Diamond Ring effect” as totality ended. I am truly grateful to have experienced this event with my family.

*Syzygy occurs when three celestial bodies align perfectly. The word comes from the Greek word syzygos which means yoked or united together.