Also Seen: Greek Roots

We don’t often see newspaper articles acknowledge the contribution of ancient Greek to the English language — especially in a Canadian newspaper … a taste in medias res of an item in the Globe and Mail:

[…] In the unlikely event that you are asked to strip naked in a gym by a philologist, don’t freak out. The word “gymnastics” descends from its Greek parent gumnazo, which means “train naked” and comes from the word gumnós – “naked.” In ancient Greece, exercises were often performed in the nude, and at one time Olympic track meets were run in the buff because it was believed that the sun was soothing to the nerves of the back. While in practice sessions, the modern gymnast performs calisthenics, vigorous exercises to improve muscle tone and fitness. This term blends the Greek stem kalli, which means “beauty,” with the Greek word for strength, sthenos.

The Greek word for contest is athlon, and this has bequeathed to us four Olympic sports: the decathlon (10 events), the heptathlon (seven events), the pentathlon (five events) and the triathlon (three events). The pentathlon, in which contestants compete in shooting, fencing, swimming, riding and cross-country running, has an interesting history. The choice of these sports was based on the legend of a warrior who, having to convey a message to the rear of the fighting forces, had to battle on horseback with his pistol and sword. However, because his horse was killed in the struggle, he had to swim and run to complete his mission. […]

… we appear to have been given license to tell people to strip naked; use it responsibly! 😉

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