Close up Hands Tea x

Sit a bit and hear some observational stories I’ve been steeping.

Words are people, too.

In “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” the patriarch of the family is constantly showing how many words have their basics pulled from ancient Greece, even if he had to go waaay around his elbow to ultimately arrive at this thumb.  Constantly, and sadly without somebody delightfully explaining the etymology, I hear words used in conversation whose roots are firmly planted in ancient Greek or Roman mythology: Flora and fauna are often used to describe the plants and animals of a region; Achilles Heel is tossed about when referring to someone’s greatest weakness and Dionysian best describes a wacky woman my family once knew (okay, still knows – but I really try to do my best to protect the not-so-innocent here).  Of course, I could trot out narcissistic, harpy and nemesis – but I bet you have people of your own you can attach those to.  Why hear about mine? [But, if you send me an email or comment (and pass this along to your friends to do the same)… I’ll consider it my public duty to fill you all in, at some point.]


When I worked in television production, our executive producer loved to call almost every task he undertook Sisyphean.  It was one of my all-time favorite words that he used, in particular, because it is the exact opposite of being a sissy.  To refer to a job as Sisyphean means it is seemingly never ending and futile.  Sisyphus was a king condemned to roll a tremendous rock uphill in the afterlife which just kept rolling back down, for him to shove uphill all over again.  Over and over this went for all of eternity.  I can almost hear some of you saying that it is a little like the job you have now.  Well, if you haven’t tried it on before, I’m going to suggest that it might be nicer to refer to your daily duties as Sisyphean rather than the “same old crap.”  Definitely has a nicer, almost regal, ring to it.


Another great word floating around out there is Augean.  It has come to mean "extremely difficult and usually distasteful."  So, we can refer to tasks, labor or even clutter as Augean.  The phrase "clean the Augean stable," is usually used when speaking about the need to eliminate corruption, but my favorite use of it is when talking about having to dig into an unpleasant task that is long overdue.  See, Augeas was another king from Greek mythology whose stable held about 3,000 oxen and the darn thing had not been tended to for thirty long years (which makes me feel less guilty about leaving dishes in my sink for the entire day).  Imagine if you will, almost 11,000 days of nasty bovine body waste and you are the unlucky cuss assigned to clean it.  Makes catbox and dog scoopin’ duties pale in comparison, right?  I know, I know.  Groan in unison if you must:  Aw, gee…<n>.


It is amazing to me, the incredible power and lyrical beauty of some words.  The longevity is pretty impressive, too.  There are words and phrases still used today that were introduced hundreds and hundreds of years ago.  For example, the adjective lycanthropy originated from Lycaon (another mythological king) around 1575 and from Aphrodite (Goddess of Love that she was) sprang the word aphrodisiac in 1719.  Over the years, I’ve heard a lot of lingo based on people and/or characters (Bogart, Deadhead, Benjamins, Weisenheimer, Monet, etc.) but I’m not convinced about their staying power.  In fact, I wonder how many names from just this last decade will stick around.  Frankly, I’m a bit mystified about how to even fit them into polite conversation myself.  “He tried to be all Tiger about it, but then she got all Snookied up in his Situation making his best friend go totally Kanye which had me Lizzing where I stood.”  Yeah.  I think one has to be completely Bacchanalian and seven sheets to Zephyr to play this game.


Speaking of games, would it be too much to ask that celebrities make an effort to name more of their offspring with names that contain Q, Z and more of the X?  After all, they’ve already added some mighty colorful names to future attendance rosters and playground buzz.  Not that I’m asking them to pander [Pandarus – A Lycian archer in the Trojan War] to lil’ ol’ me.   Because it is only going to serve my Scrabble needs if those babies grow up to do something notable (or notorious) for their names to enter the lexicon as adjectives or verbs, but I’m hopeful that way.  If Zuma, Moxie and Harley Quinn could see fit to do some stupendous stuff, like the royals in mythology, or maybe just royally stupid memorable stuff, we could immortalize their names for all time.


In the meantime I, for one, will be using the word “Sheening!” to describe all manner of madness these next few weeks.  It won’t give me a #WINNING season at board games, but just the sound of it makes me smile as the man who originated it walks amongst the simple folk, a legend of mythical proportion in his own mind.

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