Browsed by
Category: Words

Hypothetical and hyperthetical

Hypothetical and hyperthetical

I was explaining to the kids the difference between the prefixes “hypo-” meaning “below” or “under,” and “hyper-” meaning “over.” My kids are used to this sort of thing, and will grow up assuming that everybody’s parents give long lectures about etymologies.

It came up because Old Kid was making fun of his little brother for saying “hyperthermia” instead of “hypothermia.” I pointed out that those are both words. But I had trouble coming up with examples of other words that have both “hypo-” and “hyper-” variations that are commonly used (and not just by doctors and chemists). You can be hyperactive, but not hypoactive. You can be a hypochondriac, but I’ve never heard of a hyperchondriac.

We thought about the word “hypothetical.” Can something be hyperthetical? I hypothesized that the “thet” part of the word meant “truth” and was related to the “taut” in tautology.  So if something were “hyperthetical,” maybe it would be EXTREMELY true. And “hypothetical” could mean just below the truth, something that we think could be true but it hasn’t been proven.

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the word “hypothesis” is derived from “thesis”: “a placing, proposition” (from reduplicated form of PIE root *dhe- “to set, put”) . PIE means Proto-Indo-European.  The “dhe-” root is credited for all kinds of words from “malefactor” to “salmagundi.” I imagine this is similar to how humans are related to shrimp.

Tautology, on the other hand, comes from Greek root words meaning “the same” (tauto) and “saying” (logos). So my hypothesis was not hyperthetical.

Hello world, wanna buy a duck?

Hello world, wanna buy a duck?

I have a blog again! It took me several months of building up my resolve and a week of painful IT issues to get here. My goal is to get back in the habit of writing. So I’m going to write whatever crosses my mind in my twelve minutes of free time each day.

Today I discovered the Lexicon Valley podcast by linguist John McWhorter.  While I had fun learning about the origin of the word “eleven” and the existence of a 1970s musical about the Rothschild family, my favorite part was an obscure tidbit about the origin of “Wanna buy a duck?” It comes from comedian Joe Penner, who enjoyed short-lived popularity in the 1930s and starred in films with Betty Grable and Lucille Ball before dying at the age of 36.  Penner was all about the catchphrase, and for some reason this one has lived on for nearly a century.

Tomorrow: More boring IT stuff. New theme. Cakes.