Monday, October 10, 2016

Rays and Root Vegetables

 I am busily learning the new language of machining.  Most of the interesting new words have some logical, mechanical meaning.  You may never have seen a Spring Collet,  a Retention Knob or a Pull Stud, but you could form a mental picture of what it might look like.  Apologies to my UK readers for what sounds like some slightly off color language.

Its fun, but I do miss my meanderings through the language of medicine, my previous career. There were so many small moments of insight.

Take for instance the term "Radiculopathy".  In Medicalese it indicates pain, usually in the arm or leg, due to pinching of a nerve in the spine.  When discussing the diagnosis with a school teacher a while back I had the realization that Radiculopathy and Radish as words must be not just cousins, but long separated siblings.  

Both descend from the Latin word Radix, meaning "root".  A radish is a root vegetable. Radiculopathy is  caused by irritation of a nerve at its origins, its "root" as it comes off the spinal cord and exits the bony confines of the vertebral column.  

Discussions like this are an excellent and diverting way to get behind in your daily schedule.

With Radix as a Latin origin meaning to come outward from a starting point there are obviously many words that grow from it.  Radiation, Rays, Radius (which is both a bone going outward from the elbow and the distance from the center of a circle to its perimeter).  A few words have picked up modern and unexpected encrustations.

A Radical in the modern political sense only goes back to the early 1800s when the extreme wing of the British Liberal party was felt to be in favor of extreme change "from the roots". Hopefully not by eradication.

And in the fields around stately Trowelsworthy Hall many farmers grow Horseradish.  It is a powerful, pungent root that can only be planted intermittently in any given field due to its severe impact on soil nutrients.  Horses do not, so far as I know, eat the stuff.

In this sense Horse is used as a synonym for "large, coarse".  "Courseradish" would be more accurate.  

Horse comes to us from the Proto-Germanic "hussa".  Until fairly recently it was preserved intact in the word "Hussar" which designated a fancy subset of cavalrymen.  And as to other odd variations on horse...

Horse mushroom, horse parsley and my personal favorite from the North of England: Horsegodmother, indicating a "large masculine wench".

My patient with radiculopathy may have also been complaining of a hoarse voice but my latitude with the daily schedule only goes so far and to consider horse versus hoarse was a bit too much.

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