Posts Tagged ‘ology’

Ancient peoples gave us many gifts, the first of which was the Agricultural Revolution, leading to civilization itself. Among the latter’s boons–or possibly its cause–was alcohol, used as a means of preserving food in the days before refrigeration, but also as a way to sterilize contaminated water. But as always, time allows some things to ferment into greater potency, while leaving other things to rot. Language too often takes advantage of time to decay.

One example of this is the way many attach -ology to Modern English words. Best practice is to take -ology, a suffix formed from the ancient Greek word, λόγος (logos), meaning, word or more broadly, reasoning. Best practice is to find a Greek noun for the subject that is to be studied when forming a new word. Unfortunately, too many would-be coiners of terms are lazy and just slap -ology to modern words.

The case I have in mind today is “mixology,” supposedly the study of mixing drinks. But “mix” is the modern form, and it derives from a verb that didn’t involve what Jeopardy refers to a potent potables. The correct verb here is κεράννυμι (kerannymi), which referred to mixing wine with water–recall the purpose of sterilization–in vessels like this:


called a krater. Our word, crater, merely changes the first letter. Now the ancients had some form of distillation way back when, but distilled spirits date from the high Middle Ages at the earliest. Still (if you’ll excuse the pun), the verb whose root is kera relates to alcoholic beverages and thus is accurate in spirit (I can’t help myself). Therefore, the study of mixing drinks is kerology.

Of course, I prefer my drinks neat.



Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: