Wednesday, February 26, 2014

As it Should Be

If a quadrilateral is a four-sided polygon, why isn't it called a quadrigon?" one of my students asked the other day.

I liked how he was thinking! The whole purpose of word study, in my mind at least, is for the students to understand how many a word's parts fit together to build meaning.

"It's because quad comes from Latin, and polygon comes from Greek. Poly means 'many' and gon means 'angle'."

"But I thought multi meant 'many'," he said.

"It does," I answered, "in Latin."

"But if poly means 'many', how come Polyphemos was a cyclops with only one eye?"

"Well," I said, "remember cycl means 'round or circle' and ops means 'see or vision', so the word cyclops sort of describes that single eye."

"What about Polyphemos then? What did his name mean?"

"Good question," I said, "Let's look it up."

It turns out that phemos means 'spoken or sung of'; it's where the English word famous comes from. So Polyphemos?

He was one verrrrry famous cyclops!

1 comment:

  1. Is it the same sixth grader asking all of these questions? Not exactly your average kid...