Welcome to the grand opening of the Word Museum. I’m honored that you are here. My name is Word-Girl and I will be your guide for the day.
Today we will do a quick tour of Greek “roots.” “It’s all Greek to me” is a phrase you’ve heard people say when they don’t understand something. (made popular when Shakespeare used the phrase in Julius Caesar.) After today’s tour, you will be better equipped to understand words we encounter every day. It is easier to understand words if you know something about their etymology, and you don’t need an education in the Greek or Latin languages to use their roots to advantage. (just a good understanding of the roots of words,) Gardening for the writer, you might say, but that’s a stretch. (Puns are permitted here- in fact we encourage them.)
You might ask, “What does today’s title have to do with a museum?” It could have been called “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way Through the Dictionary.” But let me tell you what happened to cause me to choose such an odd name.
I opened my dictionary in search of my “X word” and did a little random wandering (random was not the right word here, nor wandering for that matter)but I will leave it as stands because what happened was that I got sidetracked from my original word and lost myself amongst relatives (words related only by their root.)
For instance, my word of the day. I found the word xenophile and imagined a post on friendship with strangers, but then my interest in the word triggered a search through the dictionary–a merry chase that brought me back to xenobiology. (be patient and I’ll tell the meaning at the end.) Let me tell you how I arrived back to where I started. It was a crazy trip and was I ever tired at the end of it. (I’m already getting a little out of breath just attempting to remember and get it all written down)
Lets go back to etymology for a moment. If you will come with me, I will try and explain it to you. We will begin our tour this way. Note that we bypass the display on entomology which sounds similar to our word, but is the study of insects. Do not lag behind, even though you may like that type of science. If you go off wandering it will be hard to find your way back to the group. I will bring you back later if you wish to enter into that particular study. Again, we are here to understand the roots of words. So onward, please.
Ahh, we have arrived. You’ll see here on the left is the root of etymology the Greek, etymos which means “meaning.” And on the right you see ology from the Greek root logos meaning “the study of” …so etymology is the study of the development and meaning of words…an appropriate place to start, don’t you think?.
Lets move on to our title word: Xenophile means one who likes or is friendly to strangers. As opposed to xenophobe–one who is fearful of strangers. To delve further: xeno (from the Greek means stranger,) phile means love; and phobia from the Greek phobos means fear, usually an irrational one. It could also mean an aversion to something.
There is the room devoted to all the phobia words– to name a few: agoraphobia, hydrophobia, arachnophobia. You know this last one…maybe because you saw that movies a few years back. So, yes, you may be interested in arachnids. Although they are not classified as an insect, I am reminded that you were interested in stopping at entomology.
So let’s’ go back there. We learned that ology is the study of something and entomon indicates “insect”. We continue on looking at more words with the root ology: astrology, archeology, genealogy and theology (which you no doubt recognize.) Nephology (nephos meaning “cloud” plus ology.) Then there is nephrology, the study of kidneys; blibliography which is the study of books or Bible, seismology which you know as the study of earthquakes and pathology (no it’s is not the study of paths, but desease.) and last we come back to the root xeno and learn that xenobiology means the study of extraterrestrial life: “the study of strange life forms.”(hypothetically speaking, of course)
So, there you have it… are there any questions? No…? Well I think that ends our tour. I hope you enjoyed it.
May I recommend coffee and pastries in the dining/gift shop. We have some excellent books on words that you may wish to purchase. While you are there say hello to Violet, the museum’s watch cat. If you wish, drop a comment in the suggestion box. Thank you for coming.