So, is it a coincidence that all three of those words start with the same three letters? Actually, it’s not. Human and humble are both derived from humus, which is a Latin word for earth or dirt. And, in case you’re wondering where the word scientists (etymologist is not a very humble word) came up with it, go back to the third chapter of Genesis, and re-read the second part of verse 19. “Remember, man, you are dirt, and to dirt you shall return.” That was God’s parting shot to Adam right before he and Eve got kicked out of the Garden for breaking the rules. God wanted to remind the fallen Adam that he was a simple creation, made out of dirt, and that his body would return to that dirt. We humans have some pretty humble beginnings down there in the humus.
I was disappointed to learn that another “hum…” word wasn’t cut from the same clod. I think “humor” should be one of the essential words describing us humble, humus-derived humans. Let’s face it, if the thought that you are God’s mud-carving doesn’t make you laugh at yourself, nothing will.
And humor seems to fit so well into the man-as-mulch relationship. After all, what emotion do we turn to more than any other when we want to put ourselves back onto more even ground, humility-wise? Humor. We laugh at ourselves as a self-policing mechanism. It’s very hard to take yourself too seriously when you are laughing. We use humor to cheer ourselves and others. Humor has a way of making giant bad things seem smaller. Scientists discovered a long time ago that humor has restorative powers. If man is earth, humor is fertilizer.
Humor is derived from a 13th century medical term for the fluids of the body. Humor has as its root the word meaning humid, or wet. Doctors at the time believed that humans had four different types of internal fluids, called “humors,” and those humors determined your general physical and mental health. If you got sick, they figured your humors were out of balance. But that’s just not funny. I don’t get it. Humor has far more in common with humble dirt than with icky people-juice. I think the etymologists got this one mixed up.
What do you think, fellow earthers?