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Interesting Words
Anthropomorphism • Noun

Pronunciation: æn-thrƏ-pƏ-mor-fi-zƏm

The word anthropomorphism refer to the attribution of human traits to inanimate objects and nonhuman beings, such as animals, vegetation, and gods.

When a tree sighs, the wind moans, or we speak of the laughter of a gurgling brook, we are engaging in anthropomorphism. If we give our car a name (my friend calls hers “Gertrude”), speak of Fido’s yapping as dog talk, or even call God “Father”—we are at it again. This noun is based on the adjective anthropomorphic which also allows a verb, anthropomorphize “to address an inanimate object as though it were human.” This is the first word I thought of watching Star Wars for the first time: C3P0 and R2D2 represent the ultimate anthropomorphic characters, machines invested with all the traits of humans without losing the advantages of machinery.

In fact, we must consider whether robots will make this Good Word irrelevant: “I always leave a few crumbs of candy on the floor to keep our robotic vacuum cleaner, Roomba, happy.” For now, this word offers a way to vent our feelings for those we don’t like without resorting to four-letter words: “When I refer to Phil Anders as a person, of course, I’m speaking anthropomorphically.”

This Good Word comes from Greek anthropomorphos “human in form,” a compound made up of anthropos “human being” + morphe “form, shape.” Anthropos is also found in anthropology “the study of humans” and misanthrope “people-hater.” The stem of morphe appears in the new verb morph “to dissolve one figure into another photographically,” isomorphic “identical in form,” and polymorphic “having multiple forms,” as had Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

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