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Etymology vs Entomology
2012/02/21 - 3:49pm

"S Harris"?   The name rings a bell.   '50s cartoonist, did a lot of slightly edgy sarcastic humor?   From my childhood I remember a volume of his stuff entitled Water on the Brain; one of the cartoons involved an outdoor drawing of a lot of workmen building a railway up to the blank face of a mountain, about fifty feet to the left of a completed tunnel.   In the foreground are two men with a set of plans; one is pointing didactically to them, and the other is jumping up and down in a fury screaming "I won't move my tunnel!   I won't!   I won't!".[Later:] Never mind, that wasn't S Harris.   I found it on the web:

2012/02/21 - 3:48pm

Same here[Luke] … entomology = ANTomology. That's my mnemonic too.

Bob and all, regarding the pentatonic scale, I have to share this YouTube link featuring classic improvisation artist Bobby McFerrin. I sense that lovers of words are also lovers of music. Turns out the pentatonic scale has some deep cross-cultural neural connections. Amazing performance, and a great demo of how our brains come already wired for certain things.

2012/02/21 - 2:34pm

This reminds me of a cartoon by S. Harris. A directory in an academic atrium reads
ARCHAE … 126
BI … 326
ENTOM … 217
ETYM … 221

2012/02/21 - 1:23pm

Some years ago I was listening to Schickele Mix.   At the end of the show Peter Schickele summed up by saying this had been an episode concerning music composed in the pentatonic scale, a word referring to the intense, "pent-up" emotions conveyed by such music.   While he was explicating, the phone by his mic rang.   Flustered, he answered it on the air; judging by his apologies, his boss had called to berate him for his poor research.   After he hung up, Mr Schickele retracted his definition; apparently, he said, "pentatonic" comes from the Greek word ("penta-") for "five", because there are five notes to the octave in that scale.   "It seems there must have been a bug in my entomology", he finished up, thus making me happy for a week.

2007/12/06 - 12:25am

Luke: I use that same device to help people remember.

Every now I'm in a discussion about a word's history and someone says entomology to which I reply "Oh, you like bugs?" They look confused until I explain myself.

2007/11/27 - 12:21pm

I once told my coworker (who was wearing a bee costume for Halloween) that she was looking very apian. I think she might have gotten offended.

And I thought I was safe because she said she had a degree in entomology.

Luke: I think I subconsciously use the same mnemonic.

Grant Barrett
San Diego, California
1532 Posts
2007/11/27 - 6:01am

"A Way with Worms." Now, that's funny!

You're not the only one who gets them mixed up. I see journalists do it all the time.

2007/11/27 - 5:58am

This is something that I used to have trouble with, confusing etymology, the study of word orgins, with entomology, the study of insects.

I recently thought of this mnemonic device: Entomology is like antomology, while etymology makes me think of etcetera which originates in Latin.

Get the two confused and our beloved podcast would be "A Way with Worms."

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