LANGUAGE ABSTRACTIONSAs you can see, the resources are enough that I can go on and on without ever plumbing (c.1300, "lead hung on a string to show the vertical line," from O.Fr. *plombe, plomme "sounding lead," from L.L. *plumba, originally pl. of L. plumbum "lead," the metal, of unknown origin, related to Gk. molybdos "lead" (dial. bolimos), probably from an extinct Mediterranean language, perhaps Iberian. The verb is first recorded c.1380, with sense "to immerse;" meaning "take soundings with a plumb" is first recorded 1568; fig. sense of "to get to the bottom of" is from 1599.) the full depths of the hand. Even the words man and woman are based on these wonderful instruments at the ends of our arms. You might think that those in education (smart people, right?) would know that the hands are significant to everything we do, and that to fail to engage them in education would be the height of their stupidity. The Wisdom of the Hands program at Clear Spring School offers a model for taking education in hand.
Because the human hand is an organ of performance, it is not surprising that the hand should "manipulate" ("to lead by the hand") the human vocabulary. The hand receives the "mandate" (from Latin "manus," for "hand," plus "dare," "to give") from the brain, and to "manage" is to govern, direct, or control. Thus, man "commends" (which originally meant "to place in one's hands") and "commands," both words related to "mandate" and, therefore, to the Latin "manus," for "hand." With its basic movements for grasping objects (page 33), the human hand also is "handy" ("dexterous," "to have two right hands") for grasping ideas. To "comprehend" is to "seize" (Latin, "capere," "to seize"), from which we derive such words as "perceive," "conceive," and "receive." Thus, by various shades of meaning, the human hand not only "hands down" information but "picks" it up. The human hand also is an organ of perception and thus lends itself to the most abstract concepts. "Handsome" originally meant "dexterous." "To feel" is connected somehow with the Greek word for hand, "palame." To say in Latin "dicere" means "to point." We touch, feel, handle, finger, thumb, paw, grope, palpate, and stroke objects.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
I ran across a wonderful exploration of the hand by Ethel J. Alpenfels D.Sc. 1907-1981 NYU. Called The Anthropology and Social Significance of the Hand nested in a broader discussion of the needs of hand amputees called Artificial Limbs, May 1955. If you click on the title at left, it will begin a 3 meg .pdf download, but I suspect you may find it to be worth it. A bit of Dr. Alpenfels discussion follows: