top of page

(to return to Words page, click here)

Anhidrosis—an inability to sweat. Some people have the opposite problem—sweating too much—but while excessive sweating is usually just embarrassing, an inability to sweat is potentially lethal since it hinders the body from regulating its own temperature.  Though the condition is very rare, it was the focus of a 2014 study by an international research team (Swedish and Japanese).  They discovered for the first time that the mutation of a single gene blocks sweat production. Getting technical really quickly, the scientists discovered that a gene called ITPR2, which encodes the IP3 receptor, type 2 (IP3R2) mutates and causes an inability to sweat. If the IP3 receptor channel is then opened, it will release calcium, which will then allow a person to sweat normally. The IP3 receptor was discovered by the Japanese doctor, Dr Katsuhiko Mikoshiba, who participated in the study. He was surprised that it only took a tiny mutation, and not a large deletion, to cause a human disorder. Loss of the IP3R2 protein in mice also led to reduced sweating. This knowledge will at some point lead to a drug that might open the receptor channel, thus allowing sweating, but at this point that is still in the future. In the meantime, it is not bad to know anhidrosis.

Anime—though the OED tells us that there are at least three words so spelled in the history of the English language, my interest is in the comparatively recent genre of Japanese or Japanese-style animated film called anime. Anime’s origins are in manga, Japanese comic books.  The father of manga is considered to be the illustrator Osamu Tezuka, whose comic stories in the post-WWII era neatly combined futuristic and other worldly themes. By the 1960s, these comics were transformed into animate series or films. Three features of this genre usually mentioned are its colorful graphics, vibrant characters, fantastic themes. A quick YouTube search will yield all kinds of these animated videos, from “10 Best Friend Fights in Anime” to a more serious “Coronavirus Anime Survival Guide.” Anime films often portray certain archetypes or different character traits that define their actions.  These are called Dere archetypes, and some web sites list more than a dozen of these. The most popular is the Tsundere type, which portrays a person who shows hatred toward their love interest. Perhaps one of the couple can’t express his or her feelings well, and the other acts out in extreme or even violent ways to respond to feeling neglected or abused. The word anime in this sense of this essay only came into English in 1985, but the genre began to sweep through America in the 1990s.  The US Anime Expo, held in Los Angeles, frequently draws 100,000 attendees. Elements from anime are increasingly being incorporated into mainline American films—an interesting and productive cultural exchange. Yet the US isn’t listed as one of Google Trends top 25 countries in the world for anime viewership. Still, therefore, a niche market. 

Ankh—the ankh is an ancient Egyptian design resembling a cross with a loop instead of the top arm. It was used in ancient Egypt as a symbol of life. More specifically, the ankh dates from the Early Dynastic period (ca 3000 BCE), and is the Egyptian hieroglyph for “life”or “breath of life.” Thus, it represents both existence in this world and any future world that is coming. Ankhs often appear in Egyptian tomb paintings, where they were carried by Egyptian deities.  They also could be worn as amulets by individuals. Because of its connection with the afterlife in ancient Egypt, the symbol was taken over by the Coptic (Egyptian) Church beginning in the fourth century. Called the crux ansata, or the “cross with a handle,” it symbolized the promise of everlasting life through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Recall that the earliest symbols for Christians included the fish and Jesus as the Good Shepherd; a cross was considered a scandal. The story of how the cross overtook the  fish and shepherd would be an interesting one, but won’t be told here. Any good symbol is worth being resurrected, so to speak, and now it is used, as the Wikipedia article on it says, as a symbol of African cultural identity, neopagan belief systems and the goth subculture. 

Ankylosaurus—a herbiverous armored dinosaur, fossils of which were found in Canada and the United States, but only first named in 1908. American paleontologist Barnum Brown discovered the fossil, which included the top of a skull, vertebrae, ribs, a shoulder girdle piece and armor, in the Hell Creek Formation in Montana in 1906. The name means“crooked lizard,”and  from the fossils that remain it is imagined to be a highly armored reptile about twenty feet long with a hip height of about five feet. Another translation of the name is “fused lizard,”because the bones of the skull and other parts of the body were fused, making it extremely rugged. Paleontologists believe it lived during the late Cretaceous period, about 65 million years ago, roaming the Western US and Canada, though we don’t know if it lodged at night in Best Westerns or Marriotts. By the 1930s its unusual armor-covering was noted:  “The tank-like Ankylosaurus, ‘the most ponderous animated citadel the world has ever seen,’had only to squat tight to defy even Tyrannosaurus.” More are being found: as recently as 2017, a scientific publication mentioned the discovery of a type of ankylosaurus that so closely resembled the Zuul monster in Ghostbusters that it was given the scientific name of Zuul crurivastator, or "Zuul, the destroyer of shins." Though our knowledge of dinosaurs is vast, the pictures we grew up on in natural history museums of several decades ago are no doubt out of date; modern reconstructions of the ankylosaurus present it as a more upright, rather than squatting, creature with tail held off the ground rather than dragging behind it. 

Annihilate—to reduce to non-existence; to blot out of existence. It is a near neighbor of a bundle of words for destroy, among them obliterate, exterminate, decimate, blot out, erase, efface, devastate, demolish, lay waste, rout, nullify, and eradicate. Knowing all these words and how to use them is like having a life-time supply of your elixir of choice right near you. You always will have a word or two at the ready to answer any longing you have either to destroy something, wish it destroyed, or describe its destruction. The root of the word annihilate is particularly suggestive, coming from the Latin verb annihilare, which consists of the preposition ad (“to/towards”) and nihil ("nothing").

Annihilate is one of those English words that hasn’t strayed far from its Latin home. If we don’t stray far from the “to nothing” definition, we can have a victor annihilating the opposition; a freedom that cannot be annihilated; or a desire to annihilate a foe. It has a special meaning in theology, to denote the final destruction of the soul that was simply put in a sort of limbo at death. In physics it denotes a sub-atomic particle combining with its anti-particle so that both are transformed into radiant energy.  “Matter and anti-mater annihilate each other.”

Anodyne—both a noun and adjective, entering into English as both in the same work in 1543. Taken from two Greek words, the a-an prefix (technically called an “alpha privative,”which reverses the meaning of what follows), and the word odune, translated “pain.”Thus, it is either a medicine that relieves pain or it is something that assuages or has the power of reducing pain. A more modern use of the term, referring to something innocuous, vapid or bland, is perhaps its most prevalent usage today. Referring to it as a medicine, a 1625 quotation has, “The injection of an anodyne, or mitigating glister.” Liquor has historically been seen as one of the world’s greatest anodynes. Using the word as an adjective, one might have an anodyne draught of something that brings you to oblivion, or forgetfulness. But more interesting is the way anodyne became used in the twentieth century—starting in 1933--as something uncontroversial, bland, vapid, insipid, non-contentious or unlikely to cause offense or debate. Two people who are talking without fully trusting each other might be having an anodyne conversation about the weather. Politicians who don’t want to alienate their audiences might be said to deliver anodyne remarks.  Or,“The quarterly meeting of the Board was always an anodyne affair.”One might be forced to listen to the anodyne music in an elevator; one might say that the  anodyne bromides of the host had the unexpected effect of stimulating people’s belligerence.  And, memorably from 1987, “The waltz is an anodyne version of Wagner’s musical intoxication.”


Antilegomena—“spoken against,” used specifically by the fourthcentury (about 325 CE) Church historian Eusebius of Caesarea to describe disputed books in the NT before the settling of the NT canon later in the fourthcentury.  Seven of the current NT books were at one time considered “disputed” books: Epistle to the Hebrews, James, II Peter, II, III John, the Revelation to John, Jude. But there were also placed in this category certain books that never made it into the NT, such as the Epistle of Barnabas, the Didache, Shepherd of Hermas, Acts of Paul, Apocalypse of Peter, Gospel of the Hebrews.  It is debated as to what is “genuine” (homologoumena); disputed (antilegomena); spurios (nothoi) and whether a possible fourth category—heretical, existed. So, categories aren’t clear; nor are we clear on why some of these “marginal” books made it in or out by whom and when.  But the word is helpful because it captures the sentiment of a period of ferment before an orthodoxy was accepted and then imposed. 


Apotheosis—the word apparently emerged in Latin in the thirdcentury CE (in the Christian apologist Tertullian) and Hellenistic Greek, probably earlier, to mean “to deify” or “to make a god.”  When coming into Christian usage, however, the term couldn't mean “to deify,” since God was already God and needed no help on that score, and so it changed its meaning to “ascend to heaven” or “to depart from earthly life” and usually had reference to saints or other holy people being canonized or dying.  It could still be, and is, liberally used in describing deities of non-Christian religions or even of Roman emperors, as a 2001 quotation has it: “Through apotheosis and elevation to the stars the emperor looked forward to a more direct participation in the structure of the cosmos.” The most famous mention of apotheosis in American society or art is in Constantino Brumidi’s 1865 “The Apotheosis of George Washington,” which currently adorns the oculus of the dome of the US Capitol and depicts the first President/Father of the Country in heaven surrounded by figures from classical mythology.  



Aristarch—someone who is a judgmental and harsh critic. Named after Aristarchus of Samothrace (d 144 BCE), the librarian of Alexandria and most famous textual critic of Homer.  He is known for his severity with the text of Homer he inherited, excising many passages he felt weren’t genuine.  Though the verb for the textual device most commonly associated with the name of Aristarchus (to athetize  or “set aside” doubtful texts of Homer) wasn’t coined until the mid-nineteenth century, the noun aristarch was first attested in 1621. Its most clear usage from the eighteenth century is in 1751, “Who..hath chastened the noble writer somewhat roughly, and Aristarchus-like.”  


Athetize—from the Greek, literally “not to place” or “to set aside.”  It is a term from textual criticism which is used to describe excisions or markings of passages with an obelus or obeli to indicate to the reader passages which the translator or editor feels are spurious.  The verb developed in Homeric studies, and the OED tells us that it was first used in English in 1886, “to athetize B (i.e., Book II) 35-41 of the Iliad. The famous librarian of the ancient Alexandrian Library Aristarchus of Samothrace (d 144 BCE) was the most notable of Homer’s early readers/critics, and his rejection of doubtful lines, or his athetizing of these lines, was proverbial.  A quotation from Wace’s 1962 Companion to Homer states that Aristarchus used the obelus, previously used by Zenodotus (fl ca 280 BCE), the first librarian of Alexandria. But he also introduced other symbols, such as the keraunion and perhaps the diple, both of which are still not fully explained.  The rather arcane world of historical studies of this early grammarian received a boost when Francesca Schironi published her 2018 award-winning The Best of the Grammarians, which assayed to describe Aristarchus’ methodology in his exegesis of Homer. Before we get too carried away with her brilliance, I’ll stop here.  The noun is athetesis.


Next Essay 

Previous Essay

bottom of page