the words in any language keep a track of the path followed
from their documented origin to the present forms.
in general, and philology and etymology, in particular, may
explore these paths and help
us to trace the events that influenced them.
will apply, below, this type of investigation to some of the
words which are more frequently used in amateur radio
activity, not claiming to
be exhaustive, of course, but
merely trying to search for and highlight the
links which may be properly considered as "etymological
word radio comes from the Latin radius, a word that
first denoted a rod or a stick and then,
more specifically, the wooden bar used to level the grain in the
containers which were used to measure
its quantity and, finally, by similarity, the spoke that
connected the hub of a wheel to its rim.
the research further back in time, we
can find the Greek rhábdos, which indicated a stick or
a root, from which the Italian
that is the person who claims to be able to find water in soils using
exactly a wand.
the transition from Latin to the vernacular language, many dental or
velar consonants have undergone a process of palatalization, so that
we have raggio from radius and
in the same way we have, for example, meriggio from meridies,
seggio from sedium and so on.
The raggio, by similarity with
the function that it had in a
wheel, indicated, as a
result, all that departed from
a point of origin and spread outward,
as a light ray or the
radius of a circle or, with a further variation in the
the words derived from radius, the process of palatalization
has not been generalized, so we have raggio,
on the one hand, but, for example, radiare
(in the sense of expelling) or radioso (in the sense
of bright, shining), on the other hand.
Branly and Marie Curie, at the end of the nineteenth century, began
almost simultaneously using the
term radio in the current
meaning, the one calling radioconducteur his
new development of the Calzecchi Onesti's coherer and the
other one proposing the term radioactivity to indicate the power of uranium to produce
rays or radiations and,
subsequently, calling radio (radium) the chemical
element she had discovered.
Both of them used, of course, the classical pronunciation with the
few years later, when it was
necessary to talk about electromagnetic waves propagating from
a source and carrying a
message, rather general and approximate expressions were adopted even
in official patent documents as, for example, wireless telegraphy
or transmission of electric impulses and signals.
terminology was stabilized in 1906 when, at a conference in Berlin,
under the obvious influence of the terms introduced by Branly and
Curie, the word radio
was adopted to
indicate the tools that were used to receive and transmit
electromagnetic waves and also to refer to the activity that took
place with those tools.
that date the word radio has been accepted in most modern
languages, (eg: in English
amateur radio station;
in Spanish - una
estación de radio; in French - écouter
émission de radio;
in German - Radio
even if alternative terms are still used, such as wireless
in English or Rundfunk in German.
English, demonstrating that radio
is a newly acquired term, the plural form is not formed according to
the general rule applied to most words ending in -o, that is to say
adding -es to the singular, as in potato/potatoes, tomato/tomatoes,
by adding -s, radio/radios, as it happens
in the case of other newly acquired words (moto/motos,
studio/studios, photo/photos, video/videos).
Italian, however, the word radio is invariable because,
perhaps wrongly, it is perceived as an abbreviation ending in -o and, as such, it does not
change in the plural, as it also happens with the words moto-(motocicletta)/moto, foto-(fotografia)/foto, auto-(automobile)/auto
and so on, up to the
recently acquired an discussed euro-(Europa)/euro.
first theory derives the word antenna from Antemnae, a
town of the Sabines, also mentioned in the seventh book of the Aeneid
by Virgil (v. 968: "Five cities forge their arms: th' Atinian
pow'rs, Antemnae...."), located in the area where the Aniene and
the Tiber flow together and, therefore, ante amnes, in
front of the rivers.
is a common process in the formation of place names. Teramo, for
example, ancient Interamnia, and also Termoli and Terni, are so
called because they were located between two rivers, that is inter
term antenna, used to indicate all that was made by a long and
thin wooden rod, would be derived
from the poles and the masts which were produced in the area of
Antemnae and that were used for the construction of various tools.
The group mn in Antemnae would be transformed in the
group nn by assimilation,
which is the linguistic process that occurs when two adjacent
phonemes tend to become identical.
second hypothesis, which seems more convincing, reconstructs the
fusion of ante, in front of, and the
Indo-European root ten, to stretch, to lay,
which would emerge the word antenna,
denoting any object that extends above or in front of something,
like, for example, the long pole which, placed perpendicularly or
in an oblique position on the mast of a ship, was used to
spread the sails.
last mentioned sense, still present in nautical terminology,
has left a trace in literature, as in the Iliad of Homer translated
by Vincenzo Monti, who writes: “...sciolser
gli achivi le veloci antenne...
” or “...né consentir che antenna
in mar si spinga...”.
the word antenna came to denote, by similarity, also the long
rods that support gonfalons, banners, standards, and flags.
zoology, the sensitive appendages on the head of many insects and
crustaceans are called antennae, from which the use in
figurative phrases such as prick up the antennae, indicating
the need for greater attention to perceive from the environment
messages that otherwise might be missed.
term contained all that was necessary, then, from long, thin shape to
the possibility to detect and transmit weak signals,
to persuade Guglielmo Marconi, during his early experiments,
to call antenna, in the meaning currently accepted
in the field of communications, the pole on top of which he placed
the terminal of his oscillator.
word antenna was accepted,
then, with some variation in spelling, in many modern languages
(English: antenna; French antenne; German.: Antenne;
synonym in the Italian language is ačreo, which, like the
English word aerial [eəriəl], is used to indicate an
external antenna, particularly a wire one, suspended in the air.
language is a system of arbitrary phonetic symbols used to
produce verbal messages that pass from the speaker's vocal
apparatus to the ears of the listener who, if the language code is
shared, has the possibility to find
out the thought of his interlocutor.
communication can occur only if the speaker and the listener are
within earshot, unless you are able to devise some system to send
your voice (phone) away (tele).
the modest results that can be achieved with powerful voices - like
the one of the Greek hero Stentor, mentioned by Homer, from whose
name derives, in fact, the word stentorian - or by various
mechanical means of amplification, starting from the Greek theatre
masks that had, among other functions,
also that of megaphones, it is quite clear that in order to
cover significant distances, at least a telephone must be used
and, to make it work, it is necessary
a microphone, from the greek mikrós, small,
a linguistic point of view, the use of the microphone revolutionized long-distance
communication because it transforms the
into electrical impulses that can be processed and sent to a
receiving apparatus that can rebuild the verbal message as it had
been produced eliminating,
to an extent which is proportional to the fidelity of the
reproduction, the possibility of errors due to the second encoding.
word microphone has not suffered the fate of many words of Latin or
Greek origin which reached, over
the centuries, the Anglo-Saxon world and then came back, on
the basis of a strong technological and commercial supremacy,
with an anglicized pronunciation, so that they are perceived by
most people as belonging to the English language.
['mikro], however, as the first part of several compound words, was
returned with the pronunciation changed into ['maikro], similarly,
for example, to the winged Greek goddess of victory Nike ['ni:
ke:] which was transformed into ['naik].
Italian, the word microphone can be shortened in micro,
as well as the English word microphone [ˈmaikrəˌfəun]
is abbreviated in mike ['maik], which is also found in the
verb to mike, used in the sense of giving someone a microphone
and hence, unfortunately, the Italian form microfonare.
Breve storia della linguistica, La Nuova Italia, 1968.
Gentile, Principi di Trascrizione fonetica, Liguori, Napoli, 1966.
Vocabolario illustrato della lingua italiana, Le Monnier.