Saturday, January 11, 2003

Etymology Today from M-W: marmoreal \mahr-MOR-ee-ul\
: of, relating to, or suggestive of marble or a marble statue especially in coldness or aloofness

>William surveyed Agnes with marmoreal coolness, his features rigid and disapproving.

Most marble-related words in English were chiseled from the Latin noun "marmor," meaning "marble." "Marmor" gave our language the word "marble" itself in the 12th century. It is also the parent of "marmoreal," which has been used in English since the mid-1600s. "Marbleize," another "marmor" descendant, came later, making its print debut around 1859.

E.T. bonus: Greek phraseology, also from M-W: omphaloskepsis \ahm-fuh-loh-SKEP-sis\
: contemplation of one's navel as an aid to meditation; also : indisposition to motion, exertion, or change

>Mystics of the Middle Ages practiced omphaloskepsis, believing that concentrating on a single focal point such as the navel would help them experience divine light and glory.

Greek mythology holds that Zeus released two eagles, one from the east and one from the west, and made them fly toward each other. They met at Delphi, and the spot was marked with a stone in the temple of the oracle there, a stone they named "omphalos," Greek for "navel" (it supposedly marked the center of the world). Mystics have been practicing omphaloskepsis for centuries, but it wasn't until the early 1920s that English speakers combined "omphalos" with another Greek term, "skepsis" (which means "examination," not "skepticism"), to create a word for studying one's own middle and thinking deeply.

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