Monday, October 17, 2016

Word of the Week - Eccentric


I have long loved the word eccentric for an odd, unique person. Ever since I learned it back in . . . middle school? . . . it was my choice word for those like me. A little different (you know, like someone who has scads of people living in her head begging to have their stories told), a little unusual, and infinitely interesting (perhaps not part of the standard definition, but I maintain that it's true, LOL.)

It was in college, studying Ptolemy and Apollonius, that I learned about the ancient mathematics, derived from studies of astronomy, and how an eccentric orbit was one where the earth was not precisely the center (as they assumed everything was, more or less).

It never once occurred to me that these two meanings of the word eccentric were related. But of course, they are!

Eccentric as a mathematical concept of an off-center, elliptical orbit dates back more or less forever, directly from the Greek word ekkentros, which means simply "off center." (Compare that to concentric.)

Eccentric as an odd or whimsical person dates from 1817, and once you realize they're the same word, it's easy to see why, right? Because we eccentrics are a little off-center. A little different from the norm. Just a little odd.

And infinitely interesting. ;-)

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