Welcome to History’s the Word

Welcome to History’s the Word

Learning the origin of a word is often enlightening. Doing so may reveal something unexpected; for example, every instance of the word “check” comes from the Persian word for “king” (more on that in a later post). It may reveal something humorous: the word “feisty” comes from the Middle English word fist, which means “fart.”Or it may reveal something about the culture from which the term derives. It’s this last type that we’ll be exploring today through the words “spartan” and “laconic.”

Word Origins: Map
Fightin’ Words

Unsurprisingly, both these terms hearken back to ancient Greece–more specifically, to Sparta. When asked about Spartans, those who saw the 2007 film 300 will probably describe Spartans as Speedo-clad warriors who bravely fought off the Persians. And while 300 took very extensive artistic liberties, it did get one thing 100 percent correct: the Spartans lived to fight. In fact, pretty much all of Spartan society was structured around being as loyal, resourceful, and fearless as possible.

While neither “spartan” nor “laconic” have anything to do with with fighting itself, exploring the origins of these words reveals quite a bit about the conditions which bred a society of warriors. Let’s begin with “spartan,” which describes one who is indifferent to comfort or luxury. Actually, this definition understates Spartan severity; even at the peak of the city-state’s influence and power (around 400 BCE), the life of a Spartan was unimaginably rough. In Sparta, only the strong survived. Newborns were bathed in wine to gauge their toughness. (Apparently not drowning in wine was a good litmus test for fortitude.) Any infant deemed weak or deformed was tossed into a chasm. If a male child survive these initial trials, at age seven he would begin decades of austere military training and would remain in the active reserve until age 60. The child’s military training doubled as his classical education, and unique punishments were reserved for students whose responses were not sufficiently laconic (witty and succinct).

Indeed, this pity manner of speaking  is so closely associated with Spartans that it, like the term “spartan,” is actually named after them. In antiquity, “Sparta” referred to the city-state’s main settlement–the region as a whole was often called ”Laconia” and its inhabitants “Lacedaemonians.” Thus, to speak “laconically” is to speak like a Spartan. And as if to ensure their historical legacy as the ultimate action-movie heroes, many recorded laconic phrases make great one-liners. For instance, during Macedonian King Philip II’s conquest of Greece, he sent a message to Sparta that read:

“You are advised to submit without further delay, for if I bring my army onto your land, I

will destroy your farms, slay your people, and raze your city.”

The Spartan leaders responded with a single word: “If.” Neither Philip II nor his son, Alexander the Great, ever attempted to take the city. Another laconic phrase derives from the Battle of Thermopylae, where a Spartan warrior was told that the Persian army was so large that its arrows would block out the sun. To this, the Spartan replied, “So much the better, we’ll fight in the shade.” Over 2,000 years later, this very line was used in the film 300, proving definitively that the Spartans did, in fact, produce great movie one-liners.

Ultimately, I find these words fascinating because they allow us to view an oft-studied and depicted culture through different lenses. The casual observer might claim that Spartans were great warriors simply because they were stronger, faster, and trained harder than their opponents. And while all that may be true, it ignores the fact that Spartan society centered on war. Their discipline in battle was an extension of the spartan lives they led at home and the lean, laconic way they composed their speech.

If you want advice about improving your score on the SAT, sign up for KallisPrep today. Our online SAT prep course includes hundreds of video lectures, skill quizzes for each question topic, and thousands of practice questions. 


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Introducing Painless SAT Preparation

Introducing Painless SAT Preparation: If you were to ask the majority of students how they prepare for the SAT, you’d likely get some combination of, “My parents hired a private tutor,” “I took an SAT class with a bunch of other students,” or “I took practice tests until my eyes bled.” And for many students, these methods are effective. However, when it comes to SAT prep, effective is often synonymous with painful and boring. So, while you shouldn’t forego SAT classes and practice tests entirely, there are a number of ways to supplement your SAT preparation that won’t bore you to tears.

This “Painless SAT Preparation” series is ongoing, with new tips added each week. I’ll start by providing a few tips on how to make SAT Reading Test preparation a bit easier, but you can expect to see some Writing & Language and Math Test tips soon. So check back often for more tips and tricks!

Painless SAT Preparation: The Reading Test, Part 1

SAT Preparation

 

The main goal of the SAT Reading Test is to determine how well you understand what you read. Many students I talk to claim to read very little or not at all, but I find this hard to believe. Most people read much more than they realize.

Nearly all information online is written, so whenever you read a movie review, check advice on the best NBA draft picks, or peruse a blog—you’re reading. Admittedly, most blogs (this one included) are not as dense or eloquent as an SAT Reading Test passage, but online content can still provide solid SAT preparation, provided you pay attention to what you read. Because, although the SAT Reading Test consists of 52 questions, most of them are basically asking you to assess what a passage says, why a passage was written, or how a passage conveys information. So the next time you’re reading something, be it online or in print, try to do one or more of the following:

  1. Summarize what you read:

    Quickly recapping information helps you ensure that you understand what you’re reading. If a sentence or paragraph is particularly confusing, try rewording it in terms that are easier for you to understand. Doing so will help you better remember what you read.

  2. Determine an author’s purpose:

    Everything is written for a reason. Some writing is meant to persuade, some to inform, and some to entertain. Most writing serves more than one purpose. This blog, for example serves to inform in a (hopefully) entertaining way. Identifying purpose helps you understand why an author wants you to read his or her work.

  3. Pay attention to presentation:

    Here, “presentation” refers to the organization and tone of a piece of writing. When looking at organization, first determine how the author arranges information; then determine how this arrangement affects your attitude toward what you’re reading. For example, if a piece of writing begins with an anecdote, it might indicate that the author is trying to establish a friendly relationship with his or her audience.

About the author: Evan Gerdisch is a writer and editor employee at Kallis Prep, where he has helped develop over a dozen study guides, and has served as a freelance SAT and ACT tutor for over four years.

If you want more advice about improving your score on the SAT, sign up for KallisPrep today. Our online SAT prep course includes hundreds of video lectures, skill quizzes for each question topic, and thousands of practice questions. 
Even more practice materials and SAT resources can be found at KallisEDU.com.

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Where did blogging come from? Who was the first blogger? Why do so many people and corporations maintain blogs? These are the questions that consume my life at KallisPrep. If blogs fascinate you (and why wouldn’t they!?), keep reading to learn about the origin of blogging.

It should come as no surprise that blogging emerged in the late 1990s as internet technologies rapidly developed to allow authors to publish formatted text to their websites. Initially, blogs were run by individual writers who wanted to share or market their content on the internet. Many blogs later become monetized: authors began selling space on their websites to major advertisers. For high-traffic blogs, this became incredibly lucrative.

blogging on a tablet

As blogging and social media in general became more popular in the early 2000s, many corporations began managing blogs. Along with Facebook and Twitter, this strategy became an effective way for a large company to interact with its customers. Now, many blogs are self-promotional (like this one): the authors write to attract attention to their company rather than to advertise for a third-party.

At KallisPrep, we write this blog as a fun way to introduce educational topics and create new content for our students. We aim to educate, entertain, and inform through fun and engaging posts. We hope you enjoy this little diversion as much as we do!

If you want more advice about improving your score on the SAT, sign up for KallisPrep today. Our online SAT prep course includes hundreds of video lectures, skill quizzes for each question topic, and thousands of practice questions. 


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