The ancients believed, as do many today, that we live our lives under the influence of astrological events. This week we'll explore some words tracing back to that sort of belief.
1. bitter or scornful;
2. melancholy; sullen; showing a brooding ill humor
(these characteristics believed to be determined by influence of the planet Saturn)
True, Graham, true. However, you're whipping a dead horse here. As the late Carl Sagan commented in his T.V.series Cosmos , any newspaper you pick up will have far more space devoted to ASTROLOGY than to ASTRONOMY. Why? Heaven knows!!!
I was looking for something else about astrology and came upon a joke. I didn't want to negate the seriousness of Wordcrafters weekly theme here, so I posted it in the joke thread.
"Serious"? No, we are subject to today's word.
lunacy - insanity, especially when intermittently relieved by periods of clear-mindedness. by extension: great or wild foolishness; a wildly foolish act.
from L. lunaticus "moon-struck," from luna "moon." Recurrent attacks of insanity believed brought on by lunar phases. Lunatic fringe (1913) was apparently coined by Theodore Roosevelt.
O.K. The moon used to be blamed for recurrent attacks of various psychoses. And the moon has been blamed for causing other illnesses,too....I recall that influenza was once considered to be a manifestation of the moon's influence. Of course, such quaint beliefs can't survive in our modern society. But...if you ask any nurse who works night shifts about how well his/her patients rest during the night of a full moon, he/she will tell you that they don't rest at all. Lots of studies have shown that the nurses' observations are wrong, but you can't convince nurses. (I've tried.) Cops also reputedly think that the full moon influences peoples' behaviour but I can't comment 'cause I'm not married to a cop!
[This message was edited by Duncan Howell on Wed Apr 9th, 2003 at 18:10.]
Was I wrong to imagine that lunacy and lunarity were, like hysteria, words associated with ladies' cycles and things?
mercurial - with the shrewdness, eloquence, or thievishness attributed to the god Mercury;
also, changeable in temperament or mood; temperamental; volatile
Partly from association with the element mercury, or quicksilver. The planet Mercury moves in the sky more quicksly than any other planet.
And who could forget Mercutio in Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet?
siriasis - sunstroke; sudden prostration from exposure to the sun or excessive heat. also, a sunbath
The brightest star in the sky is Sirius (named from Gk. Seirios "scorching"), associated with heat because it rises in the heat of summer. Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans said it brought fever in men and madness in dogs. For example, Homer's Iliad describes Achilles' armor:
quote:Notice "Orion's hound". This star is in the constellation Canus Major ("the Big Dog"), which is why we call it the Dog Star and call that time of year the "dog days" of summer. The "dog" association apparently began with the ancient Egyptians (whose heiroglyph for the star was a dog), but the reasons for it are obscure.
Here are two familiar words with unexpected astrological origins:
dismal - c.1400, eventually tracing back to the concept of "unlucky days" : Latin dies "days" + mali "bad." Through the Middle Ages, calendars marked two days of each month as unlucky, supposedly based on the ancient calculations of Egyptian astrologers.
Query: was the Ides of March marked as an "unlucky day"?
opposition - c.1395, as an astrological term for two heavenly bodies exactly across from one another in the sky.
The meaning "contrast, antagonism" first attested 1581; sense of "political party opposed to the one in power" is from 1704.
influence; influenza –
The Latin word influere "to flow into" (from in- "in" + fluere "to flow") flowed into English by two separate courses: one through French, and the other through Italian.
In Old French, influence meant an emanation from the stars that acts upon one's character and destiny. Influence in this astrological sense entered English ~1385; by two centuries later the English word had acquired its non-astrological sense.
In Italian, this influenza or star-emanation came to refer metaphorically to the outbreak of a disease caused (it was thought) by the influence of the stars. In 1743 an Italian outbreak of catarrhal fever (an influenza di catarro) spread as an epidemic spread across Europe, and the disease immediately came to be known in English as the influenza.