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Her-story strikes back

Monday, September 22, 2014, 22:47 - Ancient Greek Language, Etymology and word roots
Posted by Administrator
There is a well-known and obviously playful etymological explanation of the word "history" -- "his story," naturally opposed by the seemingly underrepresented "her story." I am completely disinterested in tracing the origins of this smashingly clever jab at traditional historiography. However, there seems to be a more amusing correlation that occurs in the language from which the term 'history' actually comes from, Greek. The roots of ἱστορία (historia) and ὑστέρα (hystera) are very close. (Different systems of reading Ancient Greek words result in slight variations in pronunciation, but the similarity is undeniable.) Now, what does 'hystera' mean? You may recognize the root 'hystera' in words such as 'hysteria' and 'hysterical'. This term is, however, a much later development and will not be discussed here. In Ancient Greek, the word ὑστέρα ('hystera') meant 'womb'. The "his story/her story" opposition is strangely mocked by this proximity of "woman" and "history" in the very language in which historic works first appeared (or so we were taught). The point of this exercise is simple. False etymologies, puns and clever word-plays are not a good source of objective knowledge. At best, they may be used as mnemonic devices.

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