In an earlier episode, Dennis from New Smyrna Beach, Florida, was having trouble recalling a word that denotes the interval between the end of an event or of someone’s life and the death of the last person that has a meaningful memory of it. We had a couple of suggestions, but they weren’t what he was searching for. Fortunately, a listener in Geneva, Switzerland, wrote in with the likely answer: saeculum. The ancient Etruscans and Romans would make a sacrifice to the gods on behalf of everyone alive at the time of a significant event, and when all of those people had died, the gods supposedly sent a sign that a new sacrifice was needed. That period was called a saeculum. The Latin word was adopted whole into English to mean “a long period of time.” The genitive form, saecularis, meaning “of an age,” also gave us secular, referring to worldly matters of a particular period. Secular can also refer to something that exists or occurs through several ages. For example, economists use the term secular inflation to refer to inflation that takes place over a long period of time. Similarly, in his poem “The Garden,” Ralph Waldo Emerson refers to a slow-ripening, secular tree. This is part of a complete episode.
- Beside Myself (episode #1535) 11/04/2019: The new Downton Abbey movie is a luscious treat for fans of the public-television period piece, but how accurate is the script when it comes... [more]
- Skookum (episode #1534) 10/21/2019: So you've long dreamed of writing fiction, but don't know where to begin? There are lots of ways to get started — creative writing classes,... [more]
- Life of Riley (episode #1533) 10/07/2019: Unwrap the name of a candy bar, and you just might find a story inside. For instance, one chewy treat found in many a checkout... [more]
- Off the Turnip Truck (episode #1532) 09/23/2019: It's hard to imagine now, but there was a time when people disagreed over the best word to use when answering the phone. Alexander Graham... [more]
- Loaded for Bear (episode #1531) 09/16/2019: One way to make your new business look trendy is to use two nouns separated by an ampersand, like Peach & Creature or Rainstorm &... [more]