or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Neat & Clean

I can't recall the context, as usual, but this morning I ran across or conjured up the word "cathartic", and then as usual vaguely wondered where it might have come from, and after poking at it for a few seconds I thought of the Cathars, a heretical sect that took root in France in the High Middle Ages (about which I'd been reading recently).


I've been speaking English for my entire life, so how is it that I only just today noticed this? (I shudder to think that when I'm 75, I'll suddenly think, "Oh, hey--I'll bet 'dynamite' and 'dynamo' are related!" And then I'll have to blog about it.)

At any rate, the Cathars have nothing particularly to do with catharsis, but the words do come from the same source, as you probably must have divined already. "Catharsis" is actually Greek "katharsis", "a cleansing", from "katharos", "pure", and it is not hard to see how this name would come to be applied to a religious sect. (The Cathars didn't call themselves that: the term arose in Germany, apparently. They were also known as Albigensians, and you may have heard in passing of the Albigensian Heresy, a Manichaean belief system which taught that there was not one supreme being but two, one good which created the spiritual world and one bad which created the material, and that since the spirit world was good and material evil, Jesus could never have come to Earth in fleshly form, for that would have made him evil, and this being the case, he could never have been crucified and resurrected. The Catholic church, it hardly needs saying, thought dimly of this.)

While we're here, "dynamo" and "dynamite" come from Greek "dynamos", "power". "Dynamic" is also obviously a member of the family, as is "dynasty", a powerful family, from "dynasthai", "to rule", which is to say "to have power over". There. That's one blog entry I won't have to make in thirty years.


Blogger clare said...

General question: Do you know if an source language, analogous to IE, exists for Asian languages?

Wednesday, May 07, 2008 12:44:00 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home