In So Many Words

Info-Comics by Larry Paros


Are You an Educated Person?

The tree of knowledge has many branches. And if we can believe Alexander Pope, "...as the twig is bent, the tree's inclin'd."

It all began with a few seeds from the Latin semen, seminis. This gave Romans the seminarium — initially "a nursery for plants," later, "a place for raising and training the young," and the source of our seminars and seminaries. Many consider these settings to be seminal, "highly original and influential of future developments." Others contend they are simply places where seeds are planted in the minds of the young.

Propaganda is similar, deriving from the Latin propago, "a slip or shoot for transplanting." Originally, a botanist's term for multiplying plants by taking slips, it came to mean the propagation of ideas, spread by the transplantation of brain-shoots.

"Crude, rude, and socially unattractive?" Nothing a little learning can't cure. Take the Latin, e, "from," combine it with rudis,"rude" and you become "one freed from rudeness." Erudite, originally referred to the pruning of trees, lopping off dead or asymmetrical branches, the first attempts being the rudiments. A good education lops off the deadwood, leaving the erudite, those of us with no rough edges — as witness the humble, self-effacing nature of the erudite scholars at our universities.