This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Friday, 29 March 2013

Word To Use Today: trapeze.

In the circus that has been Cyprus during the last week, I was surprised to see that signs for the Laiki Bank looked like this:


(I note in passing that Laiki Bank is being translated Popular Bank, which must make it the most inappropriately-named bank in the known universe.)

That sign, written in English letters, says pretty much Laikee Trapeza. This fits in nicely with the circus theme, but what has a Cypriot Bank got to do with a trapeze?

Er...well, what has a Cypriot bank got to do with a trapeze apart from the obvious shooting-up-and-down, and the being highly unsafe though entertaining in a horrifying sort of way to look at from a distance thing?

Well, you have to look at the root of the Greek word trapezion, which comes from trapeza, table.

If the connection is still unclear, then we can look at our own word for bank, which comes from the Italian banca, which also means table - in this case a moneychanger's table.

And what has a flying trapeze got to do with tables? Well, nothing, really, but it has got something to do with trapeziums, which (in most parts of the world) are four-sided figures with two sides parallel. (In the USA and Canada a trapezium is a four-sided figure with no sides parallel, but that's because the man who wrote the first American Maths book got his terms muddled.)

A trapeze is probably called a trapeze because, as they swing, the cross bar, ropes and ceiling form a trapezium.

The only problem with that is, of course, that they actually form a parallelogram.

Word To Use Today: trapeze. Or trapezium. Or trapezoid (which, whever you are, means the thing the others call a trapezium).

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