A Word Is Worth…

Etymology, the study of the origin of words, often reveals interesting roots. Consider these words and their genesis.

The Greeks introduced to the world their god Pan. When in a good mood the god Pan’s flute music was soothing. When he got disturbed and outraged it was frantic and erratic. Such idiosyncratic outbursts came to be known as having a panic attack.

Meander is a proverbial word derived from the name of a river in southwest Turkey that flows from Dinar to Miletus on the Iconian. Sitting on a hillside overlooking a plain through which the river wound its rambling abstract course, I could see the word’s meaning.

Berserk is derived from the trance-like state of a raging band of fierce out of control savage Norse warriors, the Berserkers. They would psyche themselves to ignore pain and disregard safety. They went wild in a battle frenzy. Their name came from the fact they wore bear skins. When in a rage a person is often said to have gone berserk.

Blackmail had a most intriguing origin. Rob Roy was a freebooting clan chieftain in the Scottish Highlands who initially joined the Jacobites. In between major conflicts he would raid herdsmen’s cattle and hide them in the Highlands. Cows were as good as cash. He would demand a ransom in order to get them back.

Rob was Scottish for Red, a title given him because of his red hair and beard. The word “male” had the meaning of an agreement. “Black” was used for evil. Blackmail was an evil agreement used by Rob Roy in order to return cows.

The golfers mulligan, meaning an extra shot after a poor one, comes from 1920 in Canada. Out of gratitude for driving his foursome to St. Lamberts Golf Course near Montreal, they gave him an extra shot. It became more broadly used starting in 1949.

An absorbing captivating person is often said to mesmerize people. Franz Anton Mesmer, born in Switzerland in 1734, a psychic practitioner, is inaccurately credited with developing hypnotism. He was in many ways spellbinding. His name gave rise to the word mesmerize which identifies a fascinating personality.

The name Christian was given to followers of Christ in Antioch in the first century. The suffix “ian” was borrowed from Latin and meant “adhering to or belonging to.” It meant a partisan of Christ and was initially used as a term of derision. This came as a result of Christ being crucified. As a means of execution it was so loathsome law forbade any Roman citizen from being crucified.

The word “Christian” now being used as a noun and an adjective causes some confusion. As an adjective it describes a person who endeavors to live according to the teachings of Christ because of devotion to Him. Some persons calling themselves a Christian are using it as a noun and in reality are not Christlike in their conduct. A gross application of the appellation is Hitler who is said to have been a Christian. Noun! Associating Hitler with Christ is a travesty.  He was not a Christian in the sense of being a follower of Christ, a devotee.

Disgracefully some who use it as a noun don’t live it as an adjective.

As an example, show the world what an adjective Christian is and DOES.