Many English words have their roots in Greek and Roman myth. Tantalize derives from the story of King Tantalus, condemned to stand forever in a pool that receded whenever he was thirsty, and beneath a bough of fruit that pulled away whenever he reached for it. Sisyphus was punished by having to push a heavy stone up a hill, only to see it break free and roll back down; from this myth we get the adjective Sisyphean. The handsome youth Narcissus was obsessed with his own reflection in a pond, which inspired both narcissist and the name of the flower narcissus, which blooms alongside bodies of water. Echo was the nymph who pined away for Narcissus until nothing was left of her but her voice. Iris, goddess of the rainbow, gave us both iridescent and the Spanish for “rainbow,” arco iris. In The Iliad, the Greek herald Stentor bellowed with a voice as mighty as that of 50 men. From his name we get the adjective stentorian, which describes someone with a powerful voice. Dale Corey Dibbley shares hundreds more examples in From Achilles Heel to Zeus’s Shield. This is part of a complete episode.
- Good Vibrations (episode #1556) 10/26/2020: Asthenosphere, a geologist's term for the molten layer beneath the earth's crust, sparks a journey that stretches all the way from ancient Greece to the... [more]
- Mystery Drawer (episode #1555) 10/12/2020: Amid court-ordered busing in the 1970s, a middle-school teacher tried to distract her nervous students on the first day of class with this strange assignment:... [more]
- Deviled Eggs (episode #1554) 09/14/2020: Some TV commercials launch catchphrases that stick around long after the original ads. The exclamation Good stuff, Maynard! is still a compliment almost 40 years... [more]
- Play It by Ear (episode #1553) 08/31/2020: How does social context shape our perception of language? When hiking the Appalachian Trail, a young woman from Wyoming found that fellow hikers assumed she... [more]
- Moon Palace (episode #1552) 08/17/2020: What happens in a classroom of refugee and immigrant youngsters learning English? Their fresh approach to language can result in remarkable poetry — some of... [more]