In the last article, we learned how to learn words through roots. In this post today, we extend the same discussion forward and see how word origin stories can help in learning words. There are times when names of individuals lend themselves to words, then there are times when interesting word combinations are used to coin words.

Let us have a look at few of these combinations:

1. Badger

Badger has a really interesting word origin story. But before we get to the story, let us have a look at “badger-the animal”. This is what it looks like:

How did this animal name come to be used as a verb?

N the late 18th century, there was the common sport of badger-baiting in play. In this sport, dogs would be set upon badgers in an attempt to draw them from their burrows. The dogs would fight with them and eventually kill it. This “harassment” of innocent animals lent us the word “badger”. Thus, when a lawyer badgers a witness, he would force him or her into the corner till the time they agree to his version of events.

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2. Guillotine

picture for guillotine
The GUILLOTINE is something that was invented to replace older and harsher methods of execution but it became a terror in itself. It was in fact the device of execution during the French revolution.

When the French revolution took place and the National assembly came into power, it ordered the setting up of a committee that would come up with a better method of execution and wished to replace decapitation with a sword or axe. The committee formed included Dr. Antoine Louis and Dr. Joespeh-Ignace Guillotin as members of the committee. It is the latter’s name that the device guillotine borrows. The device chosen by the committee borrowed the traditional Italian and Scottish designs and added a very sharp and heavy blade to it. This blade, placed at a height, would decapitate instantly and with complete certainty.

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3. Bacchanalia

picture for bacchanalia
This is word of divine origin, with it being based on the name of the Roman God Bacchus. Bacchus is the Roman variant of the Greed god Dionysus. Dionysus, in Greek mythology, was the god of the winemaking and wine, and through the route of intoxication lead to ecstasy and liberation. And Bacchus takes over a similar role in Roman mythology.

The term Bacchanalia is derived from the initiatory rites that were dedicated to Bacchus. In these ceremonies, there was an incorporation of carnality, sexually licentious behaviour, induced obviously through excessive drinking. Gradually, the cult of Bacchus drew the ire of the Roman authorities and more and more restrictions were placed on it.

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4. Euthanasia

Euthanasia basically means an easy way of dying. This is at times a need of people who are suffering from extreme disease and have no chance of recovery. As a method to escape the suffering, they wish to be killed. In simple terms, this is known as Mercy Killing (to kill someone out of mercy for his condition).

The word Euthanasia has Greek origins. It comes from the Greek prefix eu, well or easily, and thanatos, death. This translates to the modern day meaning of putting hopeless invalid to death painlessly. Thanatos, in Greek mythology, was the personification of death. Thanatos was twin brother of sleep and the son of the night. We can actually see the mythical overlay in these relationships, with death being an extension of sleep and night.

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Each of the above offers a method to learn in fact: You know the story, you know the word. Use this method to explore a few words, and in case you come across some interesting information, do tell us.




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