Sunday, 29 January 2012

Astrology: A Credible Zodiac

For some unknown reason I found myself overhearing (not actually listening to) the horoscope found in one of the daily newspapers. Not that the content was of any interest to me, unlike the reader who seemed thrilled to announce "Oooooh, Uranus is in your ascendancy" or something. As anyone who reads my blog will probably have guessed, my thoughts were already turning to etymology rather than astrology.

There are twelve signs of the zodiac in our daily horoscopes (although Monty Python apparently found a thirteenth sign between Virgo and Libra called Derry and Toms - named after a London department store as well known for its roof garden.) The word 'astrology' itself comes from the Latin astrologia, ultimately from the Greek meaning 'account of the stars'. Zodiac is a word from Old French zodiaque, again from Latin zodiacus and borrowed from the Greek zodiakos meaning 'circle of little animals'.

There will be those of my generation who recall Gerry Anderson's Fireball XL5 puppet series, the 'star' of which was Colonel Steve Zodiac (infinitely more interesting to me than fortelling the future based on a date of birth). Another character was an alien named Zoony, who was a lazoon. The word zoon is a diminutive from the Greek and meant 'animal'. It seems Gerry Anderson's team put more than a little thought into naming the creature, simply adding the French definite article to the Greek.

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