I was talking to Richard Hunn during one of his yearly visits to our home in Sutton (probably around 2000) – about the dire state of higher education in the UK and how I had been an academic advisor to a person who was completing a Master’s Degree in ‘Business Administration.’ One of the questions that needed answer was ‘How would you arrange the furniture in an office?’ When I told Richard this, he simply replied with one-word ‘Paraphernalia’ (Greek: ‘σύνεργα’). Today, this word is used to mean ‘this and that’, or ‘odds and ends.’ It can also refer to a collection of ‘unconnected’ things all jumbled together with no apparent rhyme or reason for the gathering. This was an apt assessment of the point I was making regarding the structure of some ‘modern’ degrees, or academic courses that pass as ‘degrees.’ Of course, the word ‘paraphernalia’ has a much more interesting history than just this definition – being ancient Greek’ in origin. In the original Greek the root word is ‘Para-pherna’, (neuter plural), Although paraphernalia was plural in Medieval Latin, it can take either a singular or plural verb in English. The word is comprised from:
A) ‘Para’ – which translates as ‘besides’, ‘apart from’, ‘distinct from’, ‘different’ and ‘beyond’, etc,
B) ‘Pherna’ – which translates as ‘dowry’ – from an object which is ‘carried’ (pheren).
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