As we were learning about the Civil Rights Movement, the students were doing some reflective writing. They wrote about Martin Luther King, Jr, Rosa Parks, and Ruby Bridges. They wrote about the Bus Boycotts in Montgomery, Alabama, the Voting Rights Marches in Selma, Alabama, the Sit-Ins at department store lunch counters across the south, and the March on Washington. They wrote about prejudice and segregation. All in all, they wrote on eleven topics. Then we typed up the writings and glued them to twelve panels (the twelfth panel being the heading). Putting the panels together was fun. When finished, the dodecahedrons were interesting to hold and read!
As you all surely know, the dodecahedron is one of the ‘five regular Platonic solids’; the others are the tetrahedron, the hexahedron (cube), the octahedron, and the icosahedron.
A comparison of those terms reveals the presence of ‘hedron’.
At first sight, we might take ‘hedron’ to have the denotation ‘face’, but a visit to the excellent Etymonline reveals that the notion of “face” in these compounds is actually a connotation; the denotation is “chair, seat” from the Greek ‘ἑδρα’ (if you can’t translierate Greek there’s help in the Tool Box) “seat, chair, sitting-part”. So each ‘face’ of the dodecahedron can be thought of as what it “sits on”. The group term for a geometrical solid with plane faces is ‘polyhedron’.
So the question arises: is ‘hedron’ simple or complex. The fact that the formal plural of ‘polyhedron’ is ‘polyhedra’ reveals that that actual bound base element is ‘hedr’.
Much more entertaining, though, is that fact that your dodecahedra (or ‘dodecahedrons’ – it depends on how formal you want to be) shares a base with ‘cathedral’.
So my question is: to which of the elements of ‘cathedral’ does the ‘h’ belong? The Oxford English Dictionary tells us that the element whose full form is ‘cata’ is from “Greek κατα-, κατ-, καθ-, a preposition used to form compounds”, and many sources (including my own earlier writings) give ‘cat-‘ and ‘cath-‘ as alternative forms of the English prefix ‘cata-‘.
But I am a Cambridge man so, on principle, I always cast a critical eye on what comes from ‘The Other Place’. And I am now convinced that Oxford is wrong in this matter, as I was myself until recently.
I had a brief discussion recently with Gina on this matter. How about joining in that discussion? And I’m sure that Doug Harper, the genius behind Etymonline’ would be interested in your conclusions too.
I agree with you Old Grouch. I’ll discover part of it.