Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The Daily Hump: Arctic

For you non-New Yorkers in the crowd, we're in the midst of a pretty nasty cold snap. Perhaps this is why I've spent the week so far humping reindeer and narwhals. Well, it's still freezing here, so why ruin a good pattern? Today we're going to look at the Arctic and hump the whole damn thing.

I've travelled beyond the Arctic Circle; it's an incredible place and I highly recommend it. Unfortunately, I didn't see any polar bears and that's a real etymological disappointment. See, Arctic comes from Latin arcticus, which comes from the Greek arktikos, meaning "of the bear." Bears? Yes. The Greeks were referring to the constellation Ursa Major which sits in the north. The Greek arktikos recalls the Proto-Indo-European root *rtko, which we also come upon in the Welsh word for bear, arth; this is a probable source for the name Arthur.

Interestingly, in Middle English the word was not Arctic, but rather Artic. This is because in Medieval Latin that first c sound ceased to be pronounced so the Old French, the source of the Middle English, dropped the letter completely. The c was restored in 1601 after the word was refashioned to adhere to the original Latin spelling.

Not surprisingly Antarctic comes from anti + Arctic; that is, "the opposite of the Arctic." And no, despite my graphic there are no polar bears in the southern hemisphere...I was simply trying to draw a connection between the word Arctic and bears. Nevermind. My genius is wasted on you.

arctic [AHD]
Arctic [Online Etymology Dictionary]
Antarctic [Online Etymology Dictionary]
Arctic [OED]
Arthur [Behind the Name]
Ursa Major [Wikipedia]

Labels: , , , , , , ,

:: posted by David, 8:37 AM


Add a comment