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Wordy Weekly VII

Wordy Weekly VII

‘Eeeeeeeeeeee’, we have reached ‘E’.

i) EVOLVE/EVOLUTION: TO EVOLVE’ is ‘to develop in a way that an organism or plan changes and adapts to a particular set of environmental circumstances.’ EVOLUTION denotes the process of this change. Both words come from the Latin verb ‘evolvo’ - to roll out, open out, unroll; (of time) to pass (other parts: evolvere, evolvi, evolutus). The connection with the meaning of the original verb clear. The changes that happen by evolution roll out and reveal themselves as time passes. The translation ‘to unfold’ perhaps captures the link best. There is an element of ‘revelation’ in EVOLUTION as species develop and reveal their new adaptive features. The notion of ‘change’ is less evident in the original, but if EVOLUTION can be deemed a ‘roll out as time passes’, the close connection with the Latin parent word is apparent.

ii) HELIX: ‘Hang on,’ I hear you say, ‘that begins with an ‘H’. Well, interestingly, not in the Greek alphabet. There is no letter ‘H’. When Greek needs the ‘HA, HE, HI HO’ sounds, it is quite ASPIRATIONAL. Oh dear, sorry. Ok, Greek has breathings on all words that begin with vowels. If no ‘H’ sound is needed, then you will see a breathing like this ὀ, looking like a small backward-facing ‘c’. A ‘hard’ breathing, as it is called, i.e., one that signals an ‘H’ sound at the start of a word, looks like a small, normal ‘c’ – ‘ὁ’ (this would be pronounced ‘ho’ (short ‘o’ as in orange)). So, our word HELIX’s original Greek parent word begins with an ‘aspriated’ (hard breathing) epsilon - ἑλιξ. The meaning of the original word is ‘anything spiral shaped’. Hence, how the term came to be applied to DNA’s triple HELIX structure (discovered by Rosalind Franklin, I should add, as we are not far from IWD). It is a cool word and favourite derivative of mine.

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