|Saturday, December 22, 2001||
The Greeks were the first Europeans to use an alphabet, the first to theorise about language and create the categories of literature which we take for granted today: epic, lyric and narrative. Naturally enough, English has taken many words from Greek classical literature. Language users are so familiar with some of these words that in some cases one is not even aware of their Greek origins. For instance, the word aphrodisiac, which means anything arousing or intensifying sexual desire, comes from the Greek aphrodisiakos. This in turn comes from aphrodisia, meaning sexual pleasures, and from Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty in Greek mythology.
used word is tragedy. In literature, a tragedy is a play in a fixed
format, often of a high seriousness. In colloquial usage, anything
from a punctured tyre to an untimely demise is a tragedy. The word
owes its origin to early Greek civilisation. A Greek bard was in the
habit of wandering from village to village, reciting epic poems on the
way. He was called a tragoidas, from tragos (goat) and oidos
(singer). Now, what does a goat have to do with tragedy? There are
three possible explanations for this. One, it is said that at an early
Greek theatre-festival, a chorus was dressed in goatskins. Two, a goat
was often the prize given at festivals where plays were staged. Three,
these tragedy-like songs were originally sung over the dead goat
sacrificed to Dionysus, the god of fertility.
An exceedingly complicated problem or deadlock is often called the Gordian knot. This was an intricate knot tied by King Gordius of Phrygia and cut by Alexander the Great with his sword after hearing an oracle promise that whoever could undo it would be the next ruler of Asia.
Sanskrit is to Hindi what Greek is to
English. One characteristic of these languages is that words borrowed
from them mostly have significance beyond the colloquial. Even a simple
word like prithvi refers to the earth but also signifies the vast
one, just as aakasha is the luminous expanse, manushya the
thinking being and sarpa the creeping one.