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Storks Roosting in Our Language

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In certain ancient traditions, storks were associated with kindness and family devotion. The Hebrew word for this leggy bird is chasidah, meaning “the kindly one,” from chesed, or “loving kindness.” Storks were also highly regarded in Greek and Roman culture. The Greek word for this bird, pelargos, gave rise to Greek antipelargia, meaning “reciprocal love between parents and children,” usually the love of adult children for their parents. The Pelargonia was a law in ancient Greek that required the care of one’s elderly parents; the Roman equivalent was the Lex Cicconia. The rare English word antipelargy refers to mutual love between parents and children. Greek pelargos also appears in the name of the flower pelargonium, so named for the beaklike shape of its seed pod, which is why it is also known as storksbill. This is part of a complete episode.

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