Greek #5

Root: DERM

Meaning: skin


1. pachyderm (n) (pachy- = thick): thick-skinned, refers to thick-skinned mammals like elephants, hippos, etc.

Last night, my younger son and I read a book about elephants, perhaps the most popular of the pachyderms. In it, the author describes how elephants throw dirt on their skin to protect themselves from the sun. I cringed when we read this part, seeing the look on my son’s face, and now fully expect that the next time we go to the beach for any length of time, he’ll be piling sand on top of all of us, “for protection.”

2. hypodermic (adj) (hypo- = under, less than): under the skin

I’ve heard of hypodermic needles and hypodermic syringes, but after having boys, I’ve learned that all sorts of objects in nature have hypodermic possibilities as well when my sons play outside. Small sticks, wood chips, pieces of palm leaves, and tiny pebbles have all found their way under my sons’ skin during exploratory voyages into the woods, bike tricks that go wrong, and impromptu “science experiments.”

3. taxidermist (n) (tax = arrangement, order) (-ist = designates a person): literally a person who arranges skin (there are so many places I could go here but won’t), a person who stuffs animal skins and arranges them into realistic displays

Here’s a bizarre piece of trivia. My mom, a former kindergarten teacher, took her students on a field trip to visit a taxidermist one year. When she first started telling me this, I thought maybe she was losing it a lot little. But then, she explained how the kids loved it, fascinated by the animals and by what they learned, and I thought, “I suppose I can see that.” I guess the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree, either, because once, I took my high school reading students on a field trip to the county jail. I know. But honestly, they loved it. And I loved watching the looks on their faces when the guard giving us the tour went into elaborate detail on exactly how bad their lives would be if they ever did something dumb enough to end up back there on something other than a field trip. “I wouldn’t touch the walls, son, if I were you. You have no concept of what’s happened in this room. No concept at all.”

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