or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Group Dynamics

In the letters section for Salon.com's review of the Golden Globe Awards, someone employs a common misspelling of the word "fascist" (it's on page 2 if you sort the letters oldest first, rendering it as "facist". I'm not going to take some letter-writer to task for that, of course, but it did get me wondering about where the word came from.

As usual, I thought it had to be related to another word--in this case, "fascia"--but, again as usual, i couldn't figure out how, if in fact it was.

It is. A fascia is a sheet or bundle of connective tissue, such as the thick band of tissue along the bottom of the foot known as the plantar fascia. ("Plantar" means "the bottom of the foot", as in "plantar wart", which is so often miscalled a "planter's wart". And I just now learned that in England, a plantar wart is called a verruca. "Verruca" is the Latin word for "wart"! As in "Veruca Salt"!)

Oh, I do go off on tangents. The word "fascia" comes from the Latin "fascis", "bundle" or "band", and this is where "fascism" comes from--more precisely, from Italian, "fascismo", which itself is from "fascio", "group"--a band of people. The original symbol of the Italian Fascists was the fasces, which Answers.com defines as "a bundle of rods bound together around an ax with the blade projecting, carried before ancient Roman magistrates as an emblem of authority". Just so you know.

"Fascia", by the way, looks as if it ought to be plural, with the singular being "fascium"--which doesn't really exist in English, not even, as one might expect, in a medical context-- as in such pairs as "bacterium/bacteria" or "gymnasium/gymnasia", but it's actually singular, with the plural being "fasciae".

Oh, and one more divagation: "fascia" is usually, in North American English, pronounced "FASH-ee-uh", but in British English is pronounced "FAY-shuh", and refers not only to connective tissue but to the dashboard of a car. Huh!


Blogger Tony Pius said...

Those of us who misspent our youths collecting (U.S.) coins have all seen a fasces in action. There's one on the reverse of the "Mercury" dime, which fittingly enough was struck through the entirety of World War Two. The war on fascism did not, apparently, begin at home.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007 6:19:00 PM  

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