or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Monday, March 09, 2009

Ancient History

As I said the other day, I'll be going to see "Watchmen" next weekend, and in preparation, I'm re-reading the book. One of the many things I had forgotten about since I first read it three or four years ago was that one of the main characters, the wealthy Adrian Veidt, has successfully marketed a great many products, including a perfume called Nostalgia, which drifts through the story both literally and figuratively as all the main characters are compelled to revisit their pasts (Dan and Laurie almost accidentally return to their superhero ways, costumes and all, while the psychotic Rorshach has his dragged from him by a prison psychiatrist).

We all know what "nostalgia" means, but where does it come from?

If you pick apart the word, you can probably guess what the second half means: "-alg-" shows up in other English words such as "analgesia" ("no pain") and "neuralgia" ("nerve pain"), and comes from Greek "algos", "pain, distress". The first half, though, is trickier, because it doesn't appear in any other common words. It's from Greek "nostos", "homecoming". The word "nostalgia" was originally coined to refer to severe, debilitating homesickness, and was considered a mental disease. Over the next hundred and fifty years, its meaning was diluted to its current sense, "a wistful longing for things past".


Post a Comment

<< Home