Friday, July 1, 2011

Word of the Week: Panic

So what do you think of when you hear the word panic? Do you think of a mob pounding on the doors of a closed bank, fire in a theater, or strange noises in a forest? Panic derives from the French word panique which derives from the Greek word panikon which means literally "pertaining to Pan." As a word for mass terror, panic came into usage in the 17th and 18th centuries. Its association with financial matters dates from the 1750s.

The god of wild places, shepherds, hunting, and rustic music, Pan has the hindquarters, legs, and horns of a goat but the torso, arms, and head of a man. Known for his famous flute and the ability to create groundless fear, people attributed mysterious sounds in the wild that frightened them to Pan. According to mythology, Pan aided Zeus in his battle with the Titans by voicing a horrible sound that frightened the Titans and sent them running. Another story suggests that Pan favored the Athenians at the Battle of Marathon and inspired panic in the hearts of the Persians.

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