Session 11 : How to talk about Science and Scientists
Whats above? The field is the heaven and all that’s in them – planets, galaxies, stars and other
Whats below? The field is the earth. How our planet come into being, what is it made of, how were
its mountains, oceans, rivers, plains, and valleys formed, and whats down deep if you start digging.
What is life? The field is all living organisms – from the simplest one-celled amoeba to the
amazingly complex and mystifying structure we call human-being. Plants or animals, flesh or
vegetable, earth or air – if it lives and grows, this scientists want to know more about it.
Flora. Biology classifies life into 2 great divisions – plant and animals. This scientist’s province is
the former category – flowers, trees, shrubs, mosses, marine vegetarian, blossoms, fruits, seeds,
grasses, and all the rest that make up the plant kingdom.
And fauna. Animals of every description, kind, and condition, from birds to bees, fish to fowl,
reptiles to humans, are the special area of exploration of this scientist.
And all the little bugs. There are over 650, 000 different species of insects, and millions of
individuals of every species – and this scientist is interested in every one of them.
Tower of Babel. This linguistic scientist explores the subtle, intangible, elusive uses of that unique
tool that distinguishes human beings from all other forms of life – to wit : language. This person is,
in short, a student of linguistics, ancient and modern, primitive and cultured, Chinese, Hebrew,
Icelandic, Slavic, Teutonic, and every other kind spoken now or in the past by human beings.
What do you really mean? This linguistic scientist explores the subtle, intangible, elusive
relationship between language and thinking, between meaning and words; and is interested in
determining the psychological causes and effects of what people say and write.
Who are your friends and neighbors? This scientist is a student of the ways in which people live
together, their family and community structures and customs, their housing, their social
relationships, their forms of government, and their layers of caste and class.
Session 12 : Origins and related words
1. People and the stars
- Anthropologist is constructed from roots we are familiar with anthropos, mankind, and logos, science, study.
- Astronomy is built on Greek astron, star, and nomos, arrangement, law or order. The astronomer is interested in the arrangement of stars and other celestial bodies. The science is astronomy.
- Astronomy deals in such enormous distances (the sun, for example, is 149 million kms/ 93 million miles from earth, and light from star towards earth travels at 300, 000 kms/186, 000 miles per second) that the adjective astronomical is applied to any tremendously large figures.
- Astron, star, combines with logos to form astrology, which assess the influence of planets and stars on human events. The practitioner is called astrologer.
- By etymology, an astronaut is a sailor among the stars (Greek nautes, sailor). The person is termed with somewhat less exaggeration a cosmonaut by the Russian (Greek kosmos, universe).
- Nautical, relating to sailors, sailing, ships, or navigation, derives also from nautes, and nautes in turn is from Greek naus, ship – a root used in nausea (etymologically, ship sickness or sea sickness).
- Aster is a star shaped flower. Asterisk, a star shaped symbol(*), is generally used in writing or printing to direct the reader to look for a footnote.
- Astrophysics is that branch of physics dealing with heavenly bodies.
- Disaster and disastrous also come from astron, star. In ancient times, it was believed that stars ruled human destiny; any misfortune or calamity, therefore happened to someone because stars are in opposition.
- Namos, arrangement, law or order, is found in two other interesting English words.
- For example, if you can make your own laws for yourself, if you needn’t answer to anyone else for what you do, in short, if you are independent, then you enjoy autonomy, a word that combines nomos, law, with autos, self. Autonomy, then, is self law, self government. A self governing state is autonomous.
- You know the instrument that beginners at the piano use to guide their timing? A pendulum swings back and forth, making an audible click at each swing, and in that way governs or orders the measure of player. Hence it is called a metronome, a word that combines nomos with metron, measurement.
2. The earth and its life
- Geologist derives from Greek ge(geo-), earth. The science is geology.
- Geometry – gee plus metron – by etymology ‘measurement of earth’, is that branch of mathematics dealing with the measurement and properties of solid and plane figures, such as angles, triangles, squares, spheres, prisms, etc. (The etymology of the word shows that this ancient science was originally concerned with the measurement of land and space on the earth). The mathematician is called a geometrician.
- Geography is writing about (graphein, to write), or mapping, the earth. A practitioner of science is a geographer.
- The name George is also derived from ge-(geo-) earth, plus, ergon, work – the first George was an earth-worker or farmer.
- Biologist combines bios, life with logos, science, study. The science is biology.
- Bios, life, is also found in biography, writing about someone’s life. An autobiography, the story of one’s life written by oneself; and biopsy, a medical examination or view (opsis, optikos, view, vision), generally through a microscope of living tissue, frequently performed when cancer is suspected. A small part of the tissue is cut from the affected area and under the microscope its cells are investigated for evidence of malignancy. A biopsy is contrasted with an autopsy which is a medical examination of a corpse in order to discover the cause of the death. The autos in autopsy, as you know, self – in an autopsy, etymologically speaking, the surgeon or pathologist determines, by actual view or sight rather than by theorizing, what brought the corpse to its present grievous state.
- Botanist is from Greek, botane, plant.
- Zoologist is from Greek, zoion, animal. The science is zoology. The combination of the 2 o’s tempts many people to pronounce the first three letters of these words in one syllable, thus, zoo. However, the 2 o’s should be separated, as in co-operate, even though no hyphen is used in spelling.
- Zoo, a park for animal, is a shortened form of Zoological gardens.
- The zodiac is a diagram used in astrology, of the paths of the sun, moon, and planets; it contains, in part, Latin names for various animals – scorpio, scorpion; leo, lion; cancer, crab; taurus, bull, etc. Hence, its derivation from zoion, animal.
Session 13: Origins and related words
1. Cutting in and out.
- Flies, Bees, Beetles, wasps and other insects are segmented creatures – head, thorax and abdomen. Where these parts join, there appears to the imaginative eye a ‘cutting in’ of the body.
- Hence, the branch of zoology dealing with insects is aptly named entomology, from Greek, en-, in, plus, tome, a cutting.
- The prefix, ec-, from Greek ek-, means out. Combine ec- with tome to derive the words for surgical procedures in which parts are cut out or removed : tonsillectomy(the tonsils), appendectomy(the appendix), mastectomy(the breast), hysterectomy(the uterus), prostatectomy(the prostate), etc.
- Combine ec- with Greek, kentron, centre, to derive eccentric – out of the centre, hence deviating from the normal in behavior, attitudes, etc. or unconventional, odd, strange.
2. More cuts
- The greek prefix a- makes a root negative; the atom was so named at a time when it was considered the smallest possible particle of an element, that is, one that could not be cut any further. The adjective is atomic.
- The Greek prefix, ana- has a number of meanings, one of which is up, as in anatomy, originally the cutting up of a plant or animal to determine its structure, later the bodily structure itself.
- Originally, any book that was a part of a larger work of many volumes was called a tome – etymologically, a part cut from a whole. Today, a tome designates, an exceptionally large book, or one that is heavy and dull in content.
- The Greek prefix, dicha-, in two, combines with tome to construct dichotomy, a splitting in two, a technical word used in astronomy, biology, botany, and the science of logic. It is also employed as a non technical term, as when we refer to the dichotomy in the life of a man who is a bank clerk all day and a night school teacher after working hours, so that his life in sense is split into 2 parts. The adjective is dichotomous.
- Dichotomous thinking is the sort that divides everything into 2 parts – good and bad, white and black, Democrats and Republicans, etc. An unknown has made this classic statement about dichotomous thinking “There are 2 kinds of people: those who divide everything into 2 parts and those who don’t”.
- Imagine a book, a complicated or massive report, or some other elaborate document – now figuratively cut through it so that you can get to its essence, the very heart of the idea contained in it. What you have is an epitome, a condensation of the whole.
- An epitome may refer to a summary, condensation, or abridgement of language, as in ‘Let me have an epitome of the book’, or ‘Give me the epitome of his speech’.
- More commonly, epitome and the verb epitomize are used in sentence like ‘She is the epitome of kindness’, or ‘That one act epitomizes her philosophy of life’. If you cut everything else away to get to the essential part, that part is a representative cross- section of the whole. So, a woman who is the epitome of kindness stands for all people who are kind, and an act that epitomizes a philosophy of life represents, by itself, the complete philosophy.
3. Love and words
- Logos, we know, means science or study; it may also mean word or speech, as it does in philology, etymologically the love of the words(from Greek, philein, to love, plus logos), or what is more commonly called linguistics, the science of languages, a term derived from latin lingua, tongue.
4. More Love
- Philanthropy is by etymology, the love of mankind – one who devotes himself to philanthropy is a philanthropist.
- The verb philander, to ‘play around’ sexually, be promiscuous, or have extramarital relations, combines philein with andros, male.
- By etymology, philosophy is the love of wisdom (Greek spohos, wise); Philadelphia is the City of Brotherly Love (Greek adelphos, brother); philharmonic is the love of music or harmony (Greek, harmonia, harmony); and a philtre, a rarely used word, is a love potion. Today, we call whatever arouses sexual desire an aphrodisiac, from Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty.
- A bibliophile is one who loves books as collectibles, admiring their binding, typography, illustrations, rarity, etc. – in short, a book collector. The combining root is Greek biblion, book.
- An Anglophile admires and is fond of the British people, customs, culture, etc. The combining root is Latin Anglus, English.
5. Words and how they affect people
- The semanticist is professionally involved in semantics.
- Semantics, like orthopaedics, paediatrics, and obstetrics, is a singular noun despite the -s ending. Semantics is, not are, an exciting study. However this rule applies only when we refer to the word as a science or area of study. In the following sentence, semantics is used as a plural: ‘The semantics of your thinking are all wrong.’
6. How people live
- Sociology is built on Latin socius, companion, plus logos, science, study. Socius is the source of such common words as associate, social, socialize, society, sociable, and antisocial; as well as asocial, which combines the negative prefix a- with socius.
- The antisocial person actively dislikes people, and often behaves in ways that are detrimental or destructive to society or the social order.
- On the other hand, someone who is asocial is withdrawn and self-centered, avoids contacts with others, and feels completely indifferent to the interests or welfare of society. The asocial person doesn’t want to ‘get involved’.