Today being Saturday I visited my mother who is an 89 year old independent widow who still has a spark about her. She does crosswords and has a rich social life but does not have a computer although I have offered her one. However, she is still curious about life and words and she asked me about the word, "histogram" and "bar graph" and wanted to know more about them.
Her question raised in me thoughts about the origins of this word as I believe that unless you understand a word's origins you never really know its secrets. There are so many words we take for granted.
Histogram invoked histology and also history.
When you look up etymology of words it usually has either nothing or just says "French" or "Latin" which may apply to "history" or even "histogram".
However, French and Latin often derive from Ancient Greek.
History is so much engrained into modern medical thinking and I am sure most of us just think it is Latin or French. However, it was Herodotus who was the father of modern history and Thucidides one of its masters.
The word, histogram is of debatable orgin as the first man to describe it, Karl Pearson named it in 1895 from a contraction of "historical diagram" although the word in Greek, "histos" means upright or a mast of a ship.
History is not related to histology.
History comes from the Ancient Greek verb, ΄ιστορέω with the "i" having an aspirate (hache sound) on it so it sounds like an "H + short i " in English (not "i" like a Cockney dropping his H's) , meaning to inquire, hence the noun, ΄ιστορία meaning history.
The word "΄ιστός" in Greek means a mast, rod or pole and also the web-beam used in weaving. ΄ιστίον which is the diminutive of ΄ιστός means the web, cloth or sheet and hence from weaving. It also means a sail.
Histograms look like a row of little sails or masts, at least to me. ΄ιστιοφόρος meant carrying sails. In Modern Greek a sailing boat is the same word; ιστιοφόρο.
Thus histology is the study (logos) of tissue (cloth in the original context)
And thus histology to me conjures up notions of the bang and "kerclump" of weaving the warp and the weft, of masts and heaving rowers and of that face that lauched a thousand ships.
It is words which enrich my life as they become my friends and give me greater insight, not only into the present but into the past.
1. Liddle, GR and Scott, R. Greek-English Lexicon, Sixth Edition, Oxford. M DCCC LXIX, p 745
(This book belonged to my grandfather and then father. The torch still burns brightly)
I expect no replies, ask no questions nor demand a poll.