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Feb 13, 2012
This week's theme
Words coined after gods and goddesses

This week's words
promethean
dionysian
palladium
junoesque
apollonian

Prometheus brings fire to mankind
Prometheus brings fire to mankind
Art: Heinrich Füger (1751-1818)

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A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

Ralph Waldo Emerson summed it up well when he said, "The religion of one age is the literary entertainment of the next." At one time there were magnificent temples of Apollo and Zeus, people prayed to them, made offerings to them.

Today no one believes that those gods and goddesses were anything but figments of ancient people's imagination. Today we learn about these gods as part of myths.

All these ancient deities are history now, but they have left their mark on the language. This week we'll look at five words that are derived from the names of gods and goddesses. I could say mythological gods and goddesses, but then I'd be repeating myself.

Waiter, there's a god in my language! I'll be speaking on god and language at the Northwest Freethought Conference in Seattle this March. Come say hello and you'll get to hear Richard Dawkins among other speakers. More details here.

Promethean

PRONUNCIATION:
(pruh-MEE-thee-uhn)

MEANING:
adjective: Boldly creative; defiant; audacious.
noun: A person who is boldly creative or defiantly original.

ETYMOLOGY:
After Prometheus, a Titan in Greek mythology. He made man from clay, stole fire from Zeus by trickery, and gave it to humans. For his crime he was chained to a rock and an eagle devoured his liver to have it grow again to be eaten again the next day. The name means forethinker, from Greek pro- (before) + manthanein (to learn). Earliest documented use: 1594.

USAGE:
"A Promethean impulse lives on in the financial markets, where quantitative investors hubristically strive to invent and speculate beyond their capacity to understand."
Ben Wright; Fear, Frankenstein and the Rise of the Machines; Financial News (London, UK); Oct 10, 2011.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
Habit with him was all the test of truth, / It must be right: I've done it from my youth. -George Crabbe, poet and naturalist (1754-1832)

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