Monday, October 27, 2014

Etymology and the Brain

I really love words and enjoy etymology (the origin of the meaning of words). Some of it may have come from my mother who was a language teacher. Reportedly, she read aloud to “me” for 30 minutes a day during much of her pregnancy. I wonder how she knew to do that because back in the last century the reading-aloud information wasn’t well known . . . Anyway, the other day I heard someone say, “The topography of the Grand Canyon is amazing.” An individual nearby said, “Don’t you mean typography?” Close, but no cigar. Topography refers to the field of geoscience and includes the study of surface shapes on the earth and other planetary objects. A topographer is a person who describes such surface shapes and features graphically, usually in detail that includes elevation information. Cartography, on the other hand, is the art and science of making maps of the surface shapes. And a cartographer is a person who makes those maps, hand-drawn or computer-prepared. And if that’s not complicated enough, is topography literal or metaphorical? More tomorrow.

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