The Logophile: Mythological Matters

Test your word wisdom with our managing editor's short quiz.


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    1. Rule-makers but not rule-followers, the Greek gods were often quite ______.
      a. mischevious
      b. mischievous
      c. mischievious
    2. Who is Sibyl?
      a. An immortal prophetess
      b. A gnome who lives underground
      c. A wandering soul who can possess a person
    3. Which of the following words is not derived from the name of a mythological god?
      a. ammonia
      b. January
      c. narcissist
      d. panic






  1. b. mischievous. The word is formed from mischief; the spelling of most of the word doesn’t change in its adjective form, and the main emphasis remains on the first syllable. The pronunciation “mischevious” is, like “nucular,” nonstandard.
  2. a. an immortal prophetess from Greek and Roman mythology. Today, the (lowercase) sibyl is sometimes used to describe a woman who apparently can predict the future.
  3. c. narcissist. Though the word does come from Greek mythology, Narcissus was only a man, not a god. Ammonia was so named in 1782 because it was a gas that was derived from salts found near the temple of Jupiter Ammon in Libya; Ammon is the Greek and Roman conception of the Egyptian sun-god Amun or Amen-Ra. January gets its name from Janus, the Roman god of doorways, gates, and transitions. Panic traces to the Greek Pan, god of the woods and fields, who was often blamed for mysterious natural sounds, sudden inexplicable fear in herds and crowds, and other fears.

Andy Hollandbeck is the Post’s copy editor and managing editor.

This article is featured in the July/August 2023 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.

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