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Dr. Goodword
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Postby Dr. Goodword » Sat Aug 13, 2005 10:34 am

• panacea •

Pronunciation: pæ-nê-see-yê • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: A remedy for everything, for all problems or difficulties; a cure-all, a catholicon.

Notes: Pandora, whose name means "all gifts", was the first mortal woman according to Greek mythology. All the gods had to bestow gifts on her. Jupiter's gift was a box that, when opened, allowed all the ills of humanity to escape. Since Pandora's Box created the immediate need for a panacea, it should surprise no one that today's Good Word comes from Greece (see History). The (English) adjective from today's word is "panacean," as a panacean remedy or a panacean approach.

In Play: Since the times of the ancient Greeks, we have come to know much more about illness, enough to know that there is no single cure for all of them. However, outside medicine the idea persists. Many think a tax cut will be a panacea for all economic problems. Others have thought nuclear bombs a panacea for all international conflict. Other perceived panaceas? "Buffy, a tattoo and a nose ring are not a panacea for your dating problems."

Word History: This Good Word is the undisguised Latin noun, panacea. It referred to a herb Romans believed could cure all diseases. The Romans traced their copy from Greek panakeia "universal cure" from pan "all" + akos "cure". Greek pan "all" appears in Pandora, as already mentioned, and in Pandemonium, the all-demon city in Milton's Paradise Lost. It is productively used to create adjectives like pan-Arab, pan-African, pan-American, a clipping of which, Panam, underlies the name Panama. (We hope nothing cures Katy Brezger's knack for finding interesting words like this for us.)
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M. Henri Day
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Postby M. Henri Day » Sat Aug 20, 2005 4:13 pm

Dr. Goodword wrote:...

Jupiter's gift was a box that, when opened, allowed all the ills of humanity to escape. ...

I remember reading that Zeus' gift was not a box, but rather an earthenware jug (amphora ?) in which all these ills had been locked away. Pandora was warned not to open it, but her curiosity got the best of her - and which of us can guarantee that he or she would not have succumbed to this drive, one of our strongest ?...


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