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Welcome to issue #51 of Words Matter, our bi-weekly newsletter. Please feel free to share with a friend!
Here's the good stuff.
Happy New Year!
January was named for the deity who looked back at the old and looked forward to the new. It's the time of endings and beginnings, like starting over with the letter A after reaching the letter Z. "From A to Z" is, of course, a phrase we use to mean "from beginning to end", but you are probably also familiar with the phrase "from alpha to omega"--which means the same thing, only using the first and last Greek letters.
Although many may not be able to recite all the Greek letters in order, it's interesting to note that those letters are alive and well in our English-speaking world. Let's take a look at a few examples.
The names of most academic fraternities and sororities ("brotherhoods" and "sisterhoods") use Greek letters ("Phi Beta Kappa", "the sweetheart of Sigma Chi", the math honor society Mu Alpha Theta, and so on).
Nearly every Greek letter is used to represent some quantity or force in mathematics, physics, and astronomy: GAMMA (γ) rays, for example, and ZETA (ζ) potential. The letter SIGMA is used to mean summation (Σ) and gives us the word sigmoid, describing our "ess-curved" intestines! And of course everyone remembers PI (π), short for "periphery", representing the ratio of a circle's circumference (periphery) to its diameter.
A DELTA (Δ) is the fan-shaped area made as a river dumps its silt upon meeting another body of water. If you don't give one IOTA (Ι) for something, you don't exert much effort toward it: the letter IOTA consists merely of one simple stroke. The word IOTA also shows up in a shortened form: JOT: we "jot down" something, in a quick, short-hand manner.
Though often misinterpreted, the use of the letter CHI (it looks like the Latin X) is how the name CHrist was and is often written, as in Xmas! A BETA (β) test, from the second Greek letter, is the marketing world's second check-up of a new product, after it leaves the first, experimental lab stage.
We call the dominant member of a pack of animals or a clique of friends the ALPHA (α) member, after the first Greek letter. And of course we call any language's ordered series of letters after the first two Greek letters: the ALPHABET.
--R.D. "Doc" Larrick
This brief student video on the Greek root LOG that comes directly from WordBuildonLine Elements Level 1 .
The root LOG
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