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Wordy Weekly XX

‘Rrrrrrr’, it’s pirate week! No, just Wordy Weekly XX (wow, Bloggus Classicus is twenty weeks old!). We’ve reached ‘R’.


The Greek letter ‘rho’ looks, confusingly, like our ‘p’. It gives us words that begin with ‘rh’. Here goes.

i) RHYTHM: Always a favourite of mine in games of Hangman for its lack of vowels. It essentially means the same things as its Greek ancestor ‘a measure of time or proportion’, ‘movement according to a pattern’. The Greek can also be used as an adjective meaning ‘arranged according to a pattern of movement’, which in English would be RHYTHMIC.



ii) RHIZOME: ‘a root-like stem’ – an anglicized form of the Greek original ριζῶμα (rhizōma), which means root or stem.


i) RISIBLE: ‘laughable’. Another slightly gone-out-of-date favourite of mine. The word comes from the Latin verb ‘rideo, ridere, risi, risus’ – ‘to laugh’. We all love humour and so did the Romans. The word ‘deride’ (to laugh at in a mocking and unkind fashion) also comes from the Latin verb. The Italian verb to laugh is the same as the Latin. The wonderful aria ‘vesti la giubba’ from the opera I Pagliacci contains the line ‘ridi, Pagliaccio’, as Canio, devastated by his wife Nedda’s affair with Silvio, stirs himself to go on with the show. Not exactly the funniest ending, he kills her and Silvio on stage. Ho hum.

And to end this entry on a lighter note, here is a Latin translation of the opening line of a charming musical song about laughter. Which is it? Answer at the end:

‘rideant, rideant, nonne scis omnis ridere vult!’

ii) ROSTRUM: ‘the speaker’s platform’ – the word is Latin, but its original meaning is a very interesting one. The original Latin term, in the plural rostra, also referred to the ‘speaker’s platform’ in the Roman forum. It lay between the senate house and the comitium (which it faced) where large public meetings were held. However, the original meaning of the word was ‘beak’ as in a ship’s ‘beak’. How on earth did it come to refer to the speaker’s platform? Well in 339/8 BCE, the Romans concluded their war with the Latin League, whose members then became their Latin colonies. The beaks from the ships of the defeated Latins adorned the platform as a vain boast of victory, and so it became the rostra. They SPOIL-ed it. SORRY!

ANSWER: 'Make 'em Laugh' from the wonderful 'Singing in the Rain' sung by the marvellous Donald O' Connor as Cosmo Brown.

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