Wordy Weekly XXIV

‘V’ week. No ‘V’ in Greek, so this is Latin’s bumper week.


But there is still material for Greek. If the Greeks didn’t have a letter ‘V’, how did they write Roman names that started with a ‘V’. Often the ‘V’ would be replaced by a beta.


CONVERT: ‘to cause someone to believe in or accept a belief or set of beliefs (usually religious)’, or ‘to change something into something else’ (e.g., they converted the bungalow into a three story museum’). The ‘con’ prefix simply strengthens the ‘-vert’ bit, which denotes a ‘turning’, thus ‘to COVERT’ someone is to cause them to make a considerable/even dramatic change in views or direction. The second bit of the word comes from the Latin ‘VERTO, VERTERE, VERTI, VERSUS’ – to turn.

VIRTUE: Essentially this is same word as Latin ancestor ‘VIRTUS’. It basically means ‘excellence’. But Roman VIRTUS was principally a man’s quality denoting bravery, courage, and loyalty, and can be translated as ‘manliness’. This does not mean it was never applied to women, but much more rarely. The very word in Latin is related to the Latin for ‘man’, ‘VIR’. Now it is less specific and can denote high-mindedness, chastity, honour, trustworthiness.

VIGOROUS: ‘dynamic, strong, feisty, energetic’. VIGOROUS comes from the Latin for ‘strength, liveliness, activity, force’ – ‘VIGOR, VIGORIS’ and there is a cognate verb ‘VIGORO’ – ‘to animate’.

I end the wordy weekly tonight with a quotation from Xenophon’s work, the Politeia of the Spartans (okay, some argue it’s not actually by Xenophon, but that’s a debate for another time), as the word ‘VIGOROUS’ is used in a the Loeb translation by Marchant and Bowersock, which I have slightly amended:

Therefore, in the first place, he [Lycurgus] established physical training for the female no

less than for the male sex: moreover, he created races and trials of strength for women

competitors just as for men, reasoning that if both parents are strong, they produce more

vigorous offspring.’

How can you breed a race of fighting of men, if all your women folk sit inside spinning wool all day? Take note Fifth-century Athens! (Yeah, but they didn't).

Please enjoy Horrible Histories' 'Spartan/Athenian Wife Swap'.


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