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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Orchids Are Fascinating - And Wait Till You Hear Why

I love words. I love all the various languages that feed into the words we use here in America, and all the origins and offshoots that go with those words. One of the things I've done with both of my kids when teaching them how to read is to look at the root word of something with a prefix or a suffix and see how many ways you can use it - this can help you determine a word's meaning or the general gist of it if you're unfamiliar. Like aquatic and aqueduct both deal with water, so an aquanaut is someone who explores the water.

I'm always fascinated by the origin of words and my trivia-loving brain is always on the lookout for little word tidbits. This weekend, I came across a couple of live ones.

Take orchids, for example.

The word orchid goes back to the Greek for testicle, orkhis, which, apparently, orchid roots resemble. I don't think I've ever seen an orchid root so this was news to me. It's not news if you're a doctor - most especially a urologist - because they use a little tool called an orchidometer to measure the size of testicles. And if you're removing said testicles, you'd be performing an orchidectomy.

And that tidbit brings us right up (from there, anyway) to the fascinating word fascinating.
The word comes from Latin fascinus which was a phallic good luck charm that was meant to ward off the evil eye. Small versions of these phallus charms were often hung around a baby's neck for protection, and often the symbols worn by soldiers or engraved in stone and revered in sculpture were incredibly ornate - enough to make you drop your jaw and stare. Hence the fascination, I guess. The word evolved from "to use the fascinus" or in other words, bewitch.

This Wikipedia article has some interesting examples of this type of artwork, if you feel daring enough to give them a gander (it goes without saying that they're NSFW). Trust me when I say you'll be fascinated.

And you may never look at orchids the same way again.

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