Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Today's Word: Syzygy

You might be tempted to cry foul play here! Fear not, 'syzygy' is a real word!

Syzygy is the shortest word in the English language to use three Y's!

It comes from Greek, where the meaning is "bound together", specifically referring to the yoked harnesses of team-animals.

It is used in a surprising number of fields! Most notably, 'syzygy' is used in astronomy to mean a convergence of planetary bodies. An eclipse is the classic example of syzygy, but any alignment of three celestial bodies along a single line of sight is applicable. It came into use in the 17th century, and at first only applied to the combination of planets that applied to the position that resulted in a new moon - but in time came to be used for any alignment of three planets, regardless of the perspective of the viewer.

Carl Jung - famous for his philosophical exploration of the Ego - appropriated the term to describe a pairing of contrasting sexual archetypes. Interestingly, to Jung a hermaphrodite was as accurate an example of syzygy as a traditional male/female relationship. Of course, the Jungian concept of sexuality and gender went further than biology and was meant to describe opposite but interlocking pairs in all respects, physical, theoretical or otherwise - This notion of inseparable duality was perhaps a nod to his early education in Eastern religious practices. Along with fluency in the Major European languages, Jung accomplished in Sanskrit by his early teens!

Perhaps due to its odd pairing of letters, perhaps because of its frequent use among scientists, 'Syzygy' is often a popular word thrown about in the Science Fiction world. In fact, before it was ever a forefather of the video-game industry - the company we now know as Atari was called Syzygy!

Poets who look for new and clever ways to use their words have adopted the term 'phonetic syzygy' to mean the repetition of a consonant throughout a verse (differing from alliteration in that the repetition is not restricted to the beginning of a word.)!

Syzygy is all around us!

(Syzygy should not by confused with Zzyzx, a small plot of land in Southern California that was the site of religiously-oriented health spa. Founded in 1944 by Curtis Howe Springer, Zzyzx Springs was purportedly a center for wellness. Springer invited followers to follow a strict diet of vegetable juice and an assortment of exercise regimens (including a mechanical exercise-horse that had once belonged to Calvin Coolidge.). These types of 'wellness resorts' were popular at the time - the book 'The Road to Wellville' is a fictional account of the very real spa that was run by the inventor of Kellogg's cornflakes.

Springer hosted a fundamentalist Christian radio show that was broadcast on over 200 stations where he presented himself as both physician and preacher. His daily shows aired for 30 years until 1974 when Springer was arrested for unauthorized use of Federal Land and violations of Food and Drug laws - he was neither a licensed physician nor ordained by any church; in essence, he was a fraud who preyed on the hopeful and drained their savings by appealing to their desire for guidance.

Zzyzx has been used as a research station for over 20 Universities.)



Post a Comment

<< Home