Many people are aware of the link between wormwood and absinthe. As names for the plant Artemisia absinthium, they are synonyms. A. absinthium has been used for many centuries to add a bitter flavor to various concoctions, especially wines and liqueurs. It has even taken the place of hops in some beer recipes. The cultural … Continue reading Wormwood and vermouth are the same word
People of all walks of life in Ancient Greek civilization(s) were fond of predicting the future by any means necessary. Sometimes this was a structured, purposeful process where a knowledgeable seer would set up an experiment, as it were, and use animal entrails or the flights of birds or random lines of literature. But sometimes … Continue reading An ominous sneeze (Od. 17.534–547)
Our word cannabis—as in the scientific names for Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica—comes ultimately from Greek ἡ κάνναβις (or, depending on whom you read, ἡ κανναβίς with different accentuation). Herodotus mentions the plant— ἔστι δέ σφι κάνναβις φυομένη ἐν τῇ χώρῃ πλὴν παχύτητος καὶ μεγάθεος τῷ λίνῳ ἐμφερεστάτη. [The Scythians] have kánnabis growing in the … Continue reading Hemp and cannabis are the same word
Many Indo-European languages exhibit a word for 'human being' that is built off of PIE *dʰéɡ́ʰom- 'earth, ground.' Celtic *gdonyo- (Irish duine 'person,' Welsh dyn 'man') < *dʰɡ́ʰom-yo- Germanic *guman- 'man' (Old English guma 'man,' English [bride]groom; Old High German gomo 'man,' German [Bräuti]gam) < *dʰɡ́ʰm̥-mon- Latin homō, -minis 'person' < *dʰɡ́ʰm-on- (whence also hūmānus) Phrygian ζεμελως 'man … Continue reading An ancient word for ‘earthling’?
As the defining characteristic of this creature is its single eye, for a long time it was taken for granted that cyclops—Greek κύκλωψ—was an old compound meaning 'round-eye': *kʷékʷl-h3ōkʷ-s = *kʷékʷlo- + *h3ōkʷ- *kʷékʷlo- 'circle, ring' (cf. κύκλος; English wheel) *h3ōkʷ- 'face, eye' (cf. ὄψομαι 'see (fut.)') In more recent years another, perhaps better, etymology … Continue reading Etymology: cyclops
A curious idiom that shows up a number of times in both the Iliad and the Odyssey means literally "take the ground with one's teeth"; figuratively, it means "die." The idiom bite the dust, or something like it, is found in a handful of modern European languages: Dutch: in het zand/gras bijten 'bite into the … Continue reading Another “One Bites the Dust”
I stumbled across this line in the Iliad that I think is noteworthy from a poetic perspective. Agamemnon is making a list of all the gifts (mostly furniture and servants) he will offer Achilles to entice him to return to the battlefront, and concludes it thus: "τὰς μέν οἱ δώσω, μετὰ δ᾽ ἔσσεται ἣν τότ᾽ ἀπηύρων … Continue reading A Rhyming Line in Iliad 9