Take Two Aspirin And …

October 7, 2011

Your Friendly Neighborhood Amoeba retired from blogging some time ago. But the other day, Quilly was wishing for posts for this site, and since YFNA’s pseudopods have gotten too short, and too weak with age, to go digging up local fences and bringing them home as presents (they wouldn’t have been easy to convert to .html anyway), he had to think of something else if he was going to (um) help.

Well, he just found out something about his work that he decided he just had to share.

As some of you may remember, YFNA studies seaweeds and related plant-like stuff (you know, pond scum) for a living. The dictionary word for this stuff is algae. No, this isn’t Greek to you, or me either. It’s Latin. This will become important in a minute.

You probably know that there are a lot of “-ology” words out there that describe particular fields of study. The “-ology” comes from the Greek word logos, which can mean “(the) word”. As in “the last word on something”. Thus, the study of animals (Greek zoon) is zoology. The study of the mind (Greek psyche) is psychology. If you don’t mind. So it would make sense that the study of algae is algology.

BZZAAATTT!!!!!

Y’see, there’s this arcane rule of English that says you can’t make a compound word out of other words that are derived from more than one language. There’s a fancy term for this sort of thing, which YFNA is too lazy to look up right now. Besides, Quilly wants him to be going to bed, not sitting up writing blog posts.

So putting algae, which is Latin (said this would be important later), together with logos, which is Greek, is verboten, which is German and it means “don’t do it”. Somebody might think that algae is Greek, and spend the rest of the evening quoting Shakespeare and creating a nuisance.

You’re supposed to pair up Greek words with other Greek words. It so happens that there is a Greek word for “seaweed”. It’s phykos. From which we get the word phycology. And a whole lot of mail from pharmaceutical companies that are trying to get us to prescribe their antidepressants. A phycologist going to a psychologist’s clinic to seek treatment for his identity crisis would probably wind up fatally confusing both of them.

But YFNA knew all this already. Has been living with it for, well, since elephants had fur. What he didn’t know is that there is a Greek word that begins with alg- and can be legally combined with logos. That word is algos. Which means pain. So, algology actually is a legal word, and it means “the study of pain”.

Wait ’til I tell the folks at the next phycological society meeting about this. They’ll probably tell me that I need a shrink. I heard that!


Quilly is the pseudonym of Charlene L. Amsden, who lives in the Pacific Northwest. When she is not doing book reviews or creating curriculum literature units, she is working on writing the next great American novel. You may visit her writing blog at http://charlene-amsden.com. To change this standard text, you have to enter some information about your self in the Dashboard -> Users -> Your Profile box.


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