Benito Cereno (benitocereno) wrote,
Benito Cereno

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Things you would not know otherwise.

Did you know that governor and cybersex ultimately come from the same word? It's true.

Before I get started on this, there are a couple of terms which I will be using both in this udpate and future ones that you will need to be famliar with.

The first is Indo-European. Indo-European is the source language for many modern and ancient languages. It was spoken by a group of people somewhere in Eurasia who went on to migrate throughout Europe, India, Iran, and other parts of Asia. It is the root of most European languages, and is also called Indo-Germanic. Latin, Greek, Sanskrit, and Germanic languages would have all developed as offshoots of this language. That most European languages developed from a common source is important to the following concepts.

The next term is derivative. A derivative is a word that takes its origin from some root word from a source language. An example of this is that the English word annotated is a derivative of the Latin word noto, meaning I mark or make note of.

The last term is cognate. Cognates are "brother words" (derived from Latin "cognatus," literally someone who was born together with someone else, or brother). When two words in two languages derive from the same root independently of each other, they are cognates. The Latin word sex, the Greek hex, and the German sechs, all meaning six, are cognates of each other. All of these words are derived from the Indo-European root s(w)eks, meaning six.

All of that to say that today I'll be talking about cognates. Two particular cognates: the Latin gubernator and the Greek kybernetes. It should be fairly simple to see the similarity in these two words once you realize that the y in kybernetes is a transliteration of an upsilon, which is pronounced approximately like a ü, and so sounds very similar to a regular u sound. Also, in most Greek dialects, the letter eta comes to replace an a sound. So hopefully you can see how these words are related. I do not know the Indo-European root for this, or else I would tell you.

At any rate, both words have the same meaning: helmsman of a ship. The helmsman was the one responsible for steering the ship. Anyone with the faintest grasp of metaphor should be able to see how this comes to mean a person who directs a political entity. So from the Latin gubernator, we derive the Old French governeor, from which we get the French gouverneur, from which we get the Old English governour, from which we get the English governor. All clear? That was the simple part.

Because in Greek, we've still got kybernetes, the Greek version of the ship pilot. In 1948, a guy named Norbert Wiener (do you think he got beat up in school? I think he did) wrote a book called "Cybernetics, or control and communication in the animal and the machine," in which he invented the term cybernetics, which was originally the theory of relating organic and mechanical internal processes. Eventually this becomes the study of such things as artificial intelligence and robots. Then comes a guy named William Gibson, who coins the term "cyberspace," derived from "cybernetics," to describe the metaphorical informational space which is navigable with computer interfaces. Blah blah. At any rate, a great deal of derivatives from this new "cyber" root start to appear: cyberpunk, cyber-cafe, cyborg, and of course, cybersex.

And now you know the rest of the story.

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