Sunday, May 28, 2006

A Battle Lost

In some of my recent polemics on the Math Forum, decrying the slowness of our curriculum to adapt to present needs, I tried to tie "pedantic" to the Latin peda, for foot.
That's why we call some pedagogues "pedantic" (from "peda" or "feet"). Many teachers want things to go very slooooowly, because their chief concern is to "fill time". They have hundreds of hours to cover geometry, and it's still never enough.
Haim took me to task. As etymologists well know, people often confuse Latin and Greek roots and the peda in pedant is really from the Greek peda meaning child, the same ped as in pedophile and relating to the Sanskrit for small.

I suggested these two peds might be related further back in time, in that pedestrian peasants were socioeconomically smaller than the equestrian bullies who towered over them. Children, like serfs, don't have as many rights and are sometimes preyed upon by adults.

Haim tore that argument to shreds, which Wayne thought was beautiful.

Anyway, I was at least able to preserve the connection between "pedantic" and "plodding." I don't think many pedants will begrudge me that.