Happy Friday! Today’s Word of the Day on Dictionary.com is “Hydra”. At first glance I assumed that it probably had something to do with water; at least that is what I thought, based on its similarity to its cousin “hydro”. But as I have discovered time and again, every word and its origin is many splendored and complex thing!
Dictionary.com defines Hydra as a “persistent or many-sided problem that presents new obstacles as soon as one aspect is solved.” It cites its first use in English literature by the great Geoffrey Chaucer (c1340-c1400) which is where things get interesting because Chaucer’s reference is derived from the Middle French ydre which is derived from the Latin hydra which is borrowed from the Greek hydra which means “water-serpent”, and is closely related to the Greek Hydor for “water” which comes from the Proto-Indo-European root words…wed, wod, and ud meaning “wet water” which is the same as the German root, which is linked to the the Slavic (Czech) root voda for “water” or ‘vodka”…which is also linked to the Old Irish root uisce for “water” bringing us to the full circle back to the English language the links Hydra’s origins to the word “whiskey”. I could use a drink right about now! What does this word mean exactly? Please refer to the definition the photo above. Okay…I get it…I think…maybe not. Clearly this word has been around for a long, long time giving it many opportunities to morph from culture to culture and from ancient to modern.
A side thought…I absolutely love this simple little 5 letter word because it is a great word for us Scrabble or Words with Friends fans. It makes use of that pesky, high dollar (point) “Y” in the middle of a word that is short enough that you might actually have a bingo on the board. Well not exactly a bingo, because you can only have a bingo on a bingo board…but you get my drift.
A quick jaunt on the Google express brought me to Wikipedia which splintered off in a myriad of directions in reference to this word. Here are a few highlights:
Hydra is a winner of a word with a myriad of meanings associated with it…as numerous as, perhaps, the many heads of a serpentine water monster from Greek and Roman mythology that goes by the name Hydra? Um yep…that’s the one. In mythology the Hydra’s lair is on the lake of Lerna and it was also reputed to be an entrance to the Underworld with “poisonous breath and blood so virulent that even its scent was deadly!” Eventually the Hydra was killed by Hercules, but not before he discovered that each time he cut off one of its heads, two more would grow in its place! His skillful use of the sword, followed by a quick cauterizing of the neck stubs with fire, are what finally killed the beast in the end.
Then of course there are the smaller versions of this monster, a genus of tiny freshwater animals that are tubular in shape with tentacles and a leech-like mouth. These Hydras have fascinated scientists for years because they are asexual little beasts who can regenerate their parts if injured and who also do not appear to age or die of old age. One scientist by the name of Daniel Martinez even made the claim in a 1998 article that Hydra are biologically immortal! I’ll have what they’re having…a healthy helping of plankton and unicellular algae, thank you very much…or maybe not…:P
A look to the sky gives us another view of Hydra the constellation. Discovered in the 2nd century by astronomer Ptolemy, it is represented as a “water snake” and is the largest of modern constellations; its close neighbors include Libra, Centaurus and Cancer.
Hydra is also the name of the outermost, odd shaped, water ice moon of Pluto (formerly known as the Planet Pluto).
And then there is what seems to be a never-ending list of Hydras that range from Brands and company names to people, places, pop culture, sports and technology. (See the entire list HERE)
Of course I could go on…but I won’t. It’s Friday after all and the weekend is calling my name! Have a good one yourself.
Might be a hydra
if one thinks a problem’s solved
beware of the glitch
~kat – 3 March 2017