Palin and Lalia
Theological Terms I
Theological Terms II
Theol. Terms III
Noso and Noce/Nocu
Milton, Book I (PL)
Oo and Ovi
Labors of Hercules I
Oblectation et al.
Dissimulare et al.
Acroama et al.
Tetrous et al.
Commeate et al.
Obsolete et al.
Subtle et al. I
Hesitate et al. (Ovid)
Excoriate et al. I
Excoriate et al. II
Tachy and Brady--with a word on Horo
Bill Long 4/19/07
The "Quick" (Tachy) and the "Slow" (Brady) of It
Words today are derived from these two (or three) Greek roots. Perhaps because of our fast-paced society and our being enamored with things that move rapidly, we have developed far more "tachy" than "brady" words. Indeed, the Linnaean classification system has at least three families/genera of living things that begin with "tachy"; the only "brady," or slow-moving designation I have found relates to the, what else?, sloths. But all of this is below. Let's begin with a word that routinely trips up spellers in the kids National Spelling Bee: tachytely.
Entering the World of "Tachy" and "Horo"
I have written at length on the word tachytely elsewhere. Suffice it to say that it was a word invented by paleontologist George Gaylord Simpson (1902-84) in the mid-20th century to describe the rapid evolutionary change and adaptation of some organisms. They rapidly (tachy) move to their end or goal (telos). But Simpson didn't introduce this word by itself. Like Dr. Seuss's threes and bees and knees and knees on trees, so Dr. Simpson felt he had to invent three words rather than one. So, along with tachytely, he coined bradytely (organisms that adapt slowly) and horotely, those that are within the boundaries of "middling" expectation.
Let's pause for a moment on the word horotely and the preposition "horo." By the way, I don't think anyone, except the makers of the Unabridged dictionary and some scholars, use this terminology anymore, but it is a good mental exercise to know it. The "horo" in horotely is the Greek word for boundary (oros) or, in an English word derived from it, horizon (officially from orizon). Horotely has to do with evolutionary change that is within the rates usual for a given group of plants or animals--i.e., within the "boundary." But we rush too quickly if we think that horo means "boundary" in all English words so beginning. Much more frequently, the horo reflects the Greek word hora, which means "hour" or "time." If we take the popular word horoscope, we can see the following evolution in language. It consists of hora (time, hour) and skopos (observer, watcher). When the words were combined in ancient Greek they became horoscopos (rather than horascopos). Thus, the Greek word for observation of the sky and the configuration of planets came into Western languages with "horo" or "oro" as the initial syllables. The words horology, horologue, horologist referring to clocks, timepieces or one who makes timepieces, are formed analogously. The only word in English I could find that reflected the hora, rather than the horo, meaning of "hour" is horary--of or relating to an hour. Horrors. I have taken too long on this.... Let's quickly go back to tachy.
Back to "Tachy"
Let's begin her with tachyarrhythmia. It is a new word, being introduced into the Unabridged only in 1993 and not yet in the OED. It is a great word for spelling bees because of the double "r," the use of the "ya" and "rhythmia" ending. We all know what it means--a quickened heartbeat. Good. The older word (coined in 1889), which still is very much used, is tachycardia, which means "abnormal paroxysmal rapidity of the heart's action." One of the more well-known tachy-words is tachometer, which needs to be distinguished from tachymeter. The former is the thing in your car which measures the speed of an engine in r.p.m. This word was invented by the scientist inventing the instrument, Brian Donkin (1768-1855), in 1810. But then, in 1860, the word tachymeter made its appearance to designate a surveying instrument adapted to the rapid location of points on a survey. Talk about confusing!
Well, we have more. I have discussed the hyptothetical partical tachyon, which supposedly moves quicker than the speed of light, here. Then, there is the new word tachism, a word describing the French school of 'action-painting' from the 1940s-50s. However, to make this confusing for us, the Unabridged introduces it as a new word in 1993 spelled tachism but in 2007 there are more Google references to it as tachisme than tachism and the Wikipedia article is entitled tachisme. What's in a word? Confusion.
We could spend a whole essay on tachistoscope but, luckily for you, I won't. It is defined as a instrument that displays an image for a specific (usually very short) period of time. You can use it to increase recognition speed or to test which elements of an image are memorable. Tachistoscopes are used to help comapanies try to develop subliminal advertising images by determining which are the images you see for a split-second which "stay" with you. The first such instrument was described in 1859, and it was used in WWII to train fighter pilots to help them identify aircraft silhouettes as friend or foe. Finally, this interesting article tells how a tachistoscope helps scholars study facial twitches or movements to pick up the way our face communicates emotion and to learn why men and women perhaps don't "read" each other that well.
Tachy and the Natural World
Let's conclude this essay by listing the way that tachy has been picked up in the Linnaean classification system. The next essay will go into more detail on these, as well as introduce a few "brady" words. We have the tachinidae, which is a family of flies (the tachina-flies) of which the Tachina is the typical genus. I also found another family named the tachinidae--the rove-beetles, of which the Tachinus is the typical genus. However, I will have a little more to say on classification of these in the next essay. Then we have the tachyglossidae, which is the proper name of a family of mammals also known as the Echidnidae. Guess what? These guys are going to have really quick tongues, as you can probably anticipate. Then, finally, we have the tachypetidae, which is a family of "totipalmate" or "steganopodous" water birds. I can almost feel the sensation of your mouth watering--but you will have to wait until tomorrow when I can take this a bit further.
Copyright © 2004-2009 William R. Long