Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Pediatrics can be so Pedestrian (not really)

pod, ped
foot or child

Most of the time, roots make sense. Knowledge of roots helps student decode unfamiliar words. However, sometimes they don't make sense, or they have multiple meanings that cause confusion. Ped or pod is just such a root. Its origins are both Latin and Greek. Sometimes it means "foot" as in pedal or podiatrist. Sometimes it means "child," as in pediatrician. Confusing, right?

How can the same root mean two totally different things? The answer may tell us something about ancient Greeks' attitude toward children. In Greek, child is paidos. Paidos derived from podos. Apparently, they didn't think very highly of children because the word they chose for them derived from their word for "foot." A child was thought of as someone who was merely "at the foot" of someone else.

Words in which ped or pod means "foot"
pedal, bipedal, podiatrist, pedestrian, tripod, impede, podium, pedestal, peddler, pedicure, macropod, pedigree, pedometer

Words in which ped means "child"
pediatrics, pedagogy, pedophile, pediatrician, Pedialyte, pedagogue, pedagogy, pediatrician