Wednesday, 18 April 2007


Today I have decided to talk about Diarrhoea , well not the unfortunate phenomenon that is a rather unpleasant bowel movement but rather the word. Diarrhoea in British English, or diarrhea in America English (well, they do always like to be contrary) is a lovely, almost onomatopoeic word. As you would imagine its etymology is Ancient Greek and literally meant through-flowing. The Germans have a fantastic word for that particular anal effluence which is 'durchwahl' which literally translates to throughfull. From the original Greek word you get the suffix 'rhein' which entered archaic German as 'Rhine' after which the river is named, a name which means that which flows.

There is something lego-esque about Ancient Greek in that words are all made up of their component prefixes and suffixes, if you understand the basic components; the language's atoms if you will, then the molecule-like words become intelligible to you even if you have never come across them. Understanding the ancient languages is like cracking the genome of modern language, surely a worthwhile exercise.