The Missionary Position

The “missionary position” is axiomatically considered to be the most boring of all sexual positions, in which the man is on top of the woman and both are lying down.  The name of it comes from the Trobriand Islanders.  When Christian missionaries reached the islands, they preached that only this position was acceptable, a fact that was much to the islanders’ distaste, for they considered it impractical and improper.  They even performed caricatures of the position around the communal campfire for entertainment, so strange did they find the idea.  It is from them, via Bronislaw Malinowski, the famous anthropologist who studied them, that this term entered the English lexicon.


My Daughter the Milkmaid

Oftentimes, the origin of a word can tell us something about the people who created it.  For instance, the Latin word for nothing, “nihil,” comes from the saying “not even a straw,” perhaps reflecting the Romans earthy natures.

The English word “daughter,” if traced back to its ancient Germanic origins, originally meant “milk maid.”  It doesn’t say much for those early speakers that that was the meaning of a daughter to them, but it can tell us about the importance of dairy to their daily lives.

The First Language

The Egyptians used to believe that they were the oldest race of mankind.  However, one of their pharoahs, Psammetichus, was of an experimental bent, and decided to test this theory in the following way.  He took two newborn children, and placed them under the care of a goatherd, who was ordered to care for the children, and bring them food and milk as they needed, but was in no way to speak around them.

Whichever language the children first spoke naturally, without being taught, would be the ancestral, intrinsic language of mankind, and that race that oldest race of man.

The goatherd did as he was commanded for two years, until one day he entered the hut where he raised the children.  They came to him crying “Bekos!  Bekos!”  The goatherd waiting until he was certain that they had said the word intentionally and with meaning and purpose, and when he was sure, he returned to the pharoah and told him what he had heard.

Psammetichus than inquired to which language the word “bekos” belonged, and it was found to be the Phyrgian word for bread.  From then on, the Egyptians considered the Phrygians, inhabitants of modern-day Turkey, to be the oldest race of mankind.


The word monster is said to have two possible etymologies, representing two different viewpoints about the purposes of monsters.  The first is from the Latin monstro, “I point out,” making monsters exhibitions of God’s work, intended to show us his ability and imagination.  The second comes from moneo, “I warn,” which instead makes monsters into warnings.  The question, of course, is of what are we being warned?