The Couch



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Joined: Apr 27, 2009

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Posted 09/13/11 - 1:07 PM:
Words have very interesting stories behind their origin. Some words have very peculiar stories related to their origin. I am fond of etymologies of a few words and this word ranks very highly when it comes to the peculiarity of the etymology.

In Greek Mythology Procrustes (Prokoptas or Damastes/”subduer"), was a rogue smith and bandit from Attica who physically attacked people, stretching them, or cutting off their legs so as to make them fit an iron bed's size. In general, when something is Procrustean different lengths or sizes or properties are fitted to an arbitrary standard.

Procrustes used to offer an iron bed for relaxation to passers on the mountain. If the user of the bed was not fit to the bed he used to stretch him using his hammer, in turn killing the passers. Nobody ever used to fit to the bed because Procustes secretly had two beds.

In modern sense, word is used to suggest very arbitrary standards. You may insinuate towards social or educational or political standards as Procrustean standards, because, no matter what you do, you will not fit and standards will be horribly arbitrary! Education for example, has mostly been Procrustean, trying to fit students of all mental capacities into one standard, not providing for special needs of visual-spatial or ‘gifted’ students for most of the past century.
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