The Brief Etymology Of The Word Humor

926 words - 4 pages

Imagine for a moment the vast history of the languages of the world. The base sounds that over time formed into words, words that eventually evolved into language, language that branched and developed into different languages. Modern languages adopted words from ancient languages, and adapted the definitions to meet the requisites of the civilizations for which they served. This development in language is due to the fundamental need for the human race to communicate effectively with one another. Therefore, it is not surprising that many words have dual meanings. For instance the word, humor, has expanded from its original definition to encompass the interpretation available in modern ...view middle of the document...

The common belief was that the human body consisted of four different fluids, or humors that affected the temperament or the mood of the individual. Even today it can be observed that a person who is ill, or out of balance, is in less than jovial spirits, while a person, who enjoys good health is happier and has a greater sense of peace.
The ancients formulated the theory that the four different fluids that influenced the temperament were blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile. The ancient physiologists concluded that it was the balance of the fluids in the body determined the disposition of the individual. (Mirriam-Webster Word Central). In order to provide a better explanation of the how the balance of liquids affected mood below is an excerpt from the Merriam-Webster Word Central online.
“If a person had a cheerful, confident disposition, it was said to be a result of an excess of blood. Such a person was called "sanguine," from the Latin word sanguis, meaning "blood." A sluggish disposition was said to be the result of an excess of phlegm. A person having such a disposition was called "phlegmatic," from the Greek word phlegma, meaning "flame, phlegm." A fiery, hot-tempered disposition was said to be caused by an excess of yellow bile. A person with this disposition was said to be "choleric," from the Greek word chol , meaning "bile." The disposition of a gloomy, depressed person was said to be the result of an excess of black bile. Such a person was called "melancholy," from the Greek words melan-, meaning "black," and chol , meaning "bile." (Mirriam-Webster Word Central).
In time, the meaning of the word, humor, would denote a person who was delirious due to an imbalance of the liquids continued within the body. Gradually, humor, was used to describe a person who...

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