Saturday, January 31, 2009

#2: spiro, spirare, spiravi, spiratum: to breathe

Greetings and well wishes (the word merrythought just popped into my mind, a charming word for a wishbone) etymology fans! After the inaugural fortnight (a truncated form of "fourteen nights;" much less frequently used is the word "sennight," which describes the period of one week, or "seven nights") of hoopla and good tidings that our new President (he who etymologically "sits before" us all), we now must all keep up our spirits as he and his new administration come to grips with the mess that the world economy is in. Hoping that he can breathe life into a gasping financial situation, let's take another look at an apropos root, one that we ourselves began exploring a fortnight ago:

Spiro, spirare, spiravi, spiratum—to breathe {spiro-}
Spiritus—breath, the soul, vigor, that which animates life
(the above word roots are referenced from )

SAT-level English vocabulary words that are related to this root might be a good way to look into that which might reanimate our world into a golden age, much indeed as Augustus found Rome made of bricks and left it made of marble; could not the Presidency of Barack Obama portend similarities? For now we, as a nation, are dispirited from an economic standpoint, that is, we have our "vigor apart" from where it should be, that is, there has been a "reversal of soul" that has taken us from past good times and plunged us into the murky depths of impending or current unemployment (via the Latin prefix dis—apart, not, away from, reversal). Times like these do tend to dispirit us, as the stock market plunges seemingly daily, coming back to tantalizing and seemingly spirited rallies, that is, those that are "vigorous" and "animated" by hope, only to reverse course downward yet again (the great cycles of the stock market do tend to move in a tripartite fashion, that is, that of hope, fear, and greed). Some have believed that there is a conspiracy of sorts (members of a conspiracy etymologically ‘breathe together’ when
hatching a plot) that is keeping the stock market tied to wild gyrations, that is, past greed of banks with current loss of jobs that is feeding loss of more jobs to hedge the worsening of the economy.
While things of this nature do tend to conspire to aggravate matters, acting in a conspiratorial fashion, one must remember that we do live in a world of opposites, ruled by mythological principles, that is, that light coexists with the dark, as good times coexist or supplant bad. So although difficult times seem to last forever, they, as an archetype for the type of world in which we live, cannot persist, something which the beleaguered tend to forget once enmeshed in the slippery mire of catastrophic downfall. Evil days will transpire, have transpired, are indeed transpiring, but will eventually run out of breath, at which point we will all again begin to aspire towards a hopeful recovery; this aspiring foreknowledge (via the Latin aspirare, ‘to long for;’ when Elissa aspired to become a dancer, she used every ‘breath towards’ her aspiration) can pay dividends even in the midst of a crisis by reminding us that there have been crises before, but that our aspirations to fix them have always worked, and must indeed work; we just must work diligently towards them with a good heart and a sober, focused mind, lest our worry, stress, and general psychological malaise cause our core hopefulness to expire (‘x’ is linguistically equivalent to ‘ks,’ hence the spir morpheme is retained; to expire is to ‘breathe out’ one’s last breath), suffering an untoward and unnecessary expiration which will exacerbate our current problems to ones truly of irremediable decreptitude, perhaps even requiring extreme measures to get our respiration going again (that breathing again...and again...and again...via the Latin prefix re-: back, again), hence once again resurrecting our humanly indomitable esprit de corps (but I digress, as that last phrase really is intended for next week's discussion)! Breathe, breathe, breathe...and focus on that breath, and that is all there really is at that moment. Try'll appreciate its simplicity and soothing nature.

Did you enjoy all the subsidiary words, such as the important prefixes and suffixes, talked about in the above post? If so, check out this Greek and Latin roots and English vocabulary words site, sure to whet your appetite for the core roots of the English language; word origin is not only fascinating, but highly powerful. Interested in a Greek and Latin roots poster that features the above Latin root? Or more beautiful Greek and Latin root word trees that list 100s of English derivatives? For the verbal enthusiast serious about learning her English vocabulary, there is no quicker route to learning and remembering our wonderful English language than truly learning Greek and Latin root words.