Monday, June 9, 2008

T.M.I. (Too Much Information)

I'm no English scholar, but I've always been fascinated by words and etymology. Probably comes from my dad, who loved a good play on words. I know the question will come up sooner or later, so I might as well dispel the great mystery about the name of my blogsite now. My dad loved to give ordinary words unique and complex spellings, as well as come up with new words and names for things. He also created his own pet names for his children, such as "Skarpathian Pugsforth," and "Buford Paisley" (Buford, you know who you are). "Skarpathian" is a bit of a stretch from "Scott," but then again, that was my dad.

In college I had a couple roommates who shared my interest in vocabulary. One of them had a copy of the Oxford English Dictionary (the print was so small you almost had to use a magnifying glass) and we'd look up various words for fun. One day we came across the word "gymnos." This is a Greek root meaning "naked" or "in the nude." It is evident from the art and history of the ancient Greeks that they had great admiration for the human form. It is said that athletes and Olympians in ancient Greece would compete in their events either completely naked or with very little attire (count me out for wrestling!). My roommates and I would jokingly use the word in such context as "I'm going to get gymnos and take a shower now." It is fairly clear how the words "gym," "gymnastic," and gymnasium" are derived from this root. Unfortunately for me, these words elicit some disturbing imagery every time I hear them. I am mildly revulsed at the prospect of holding a meeting or event in the "gymnasium," and the thought of my son taking a "gym" class is somewhat troubling.

Yes, words can be interesting, but sometimes too much information is a bad thing.

No comments: