You'll probably have seen some icons on your way in to The Word Den.
Yes, they're the small pictures on the screen that act as doorways to the magic cupboards on your computer. One cupboard may contain blank pages you can write on, and another may lead to the almost infinite number of cubbyholes that make up thing that I suspect shouldn't really be called the internet but you know what I mean anyway.
But there are icons all over the place, not just on computer screens.
The first icons were pictures of invisible people. Some of these people were invisible because they were gods, and some were invisible because they were dead. Icons came in jolly handy because if a god, for instance, did happen to turn up it meant you could recognise him straight away and not make an idiot of yourself by assuming he'd come to clear out the drains.
Icons are still used in some religions for speaking to invisible people. You don't talk to the icon itself, but the idea is that the picture helps you to think in the right way so you can get in touch with the person who is pictured.
Nowadays icon has stretched its meaning so it's come to mean anything or anyone who is admired, watched and copied.
You can have an iconic film star:
That's Marilyn Monroe
An iconic building:
(that building is in London and is properly called the Swiss Re Tower, though everyone calls it the gherkin).
Or even an iconic lemon squeezer:
Photo by Phrontis of a piece by Philippe Starck.
So what do all icons have in common?
Well, they're all doors to something people think is wonderful: God, fashion, power, riches, and admiration.
And how very very easy it is to forget that they're not the real thing.
Word To Use today: icon. This word is Greek. Eikōn meant image, and eikenai meant to be like.