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Nuts, Nucleus, and Putting Away One’s Toys

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In ancient Rome, kids played games with nuts — specifically walnuts. In a Latin poem from that era, “Nux,” a walnut tree describes some of those games. Nux is Latin for “nut,” the source also of nucleus, or “kernel of a nut” and eventually the core of other things. The plural nuces appears in the Latin phrase nuces relinquere, literally “to give up nuts,” which, used in a metaphorical sense, means “to leave childhood” — in other words, to put away one’s toys. This is part of a complete episode.

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