I have occasionally said that in another life, I’d have been a linguist. It’s a fascinating study, and the rabbit hole into which you can jump is never-ending. It’s like that puzzle you can’t quite finish or the mystery that can never truly be solved: each tidbit makes you look for the next in an eternal search for the truth.

In many cases, there are answers – if you are willing to search long enough.

Take the word “torpedo,” for example. Most often, when we hear that word, we probably think about those underwater missiles that destroy ships. However, the word comes from a Latin word, torpēre, which means to make numb or stiff.

The other usage relates to electric rays. The common torpedo, torpedo torpedo, gets its Latin name from the word torpēre. which makes sense, seeing as a zap from one of these little guys can render whichever part of your body it touched numb; or in the case of the Pacific torpedo, can knock out adult human. They’re also aggressive and will chase you down if you annoy them.

The use of electrotherapy is one of the oldest documented medical treatments. The ancient Romans and Greeks used some form of electric ray for pain control. Conditions such as headaches and gout; even post-surgery pain and labor pain were candidates for these natural TENS units.

They weren’t the only ones on record having used an animal that generates electricity for pain management – the Egyptians did too. In fact, there is an electric catfish known as the thunder of the Nile, or simply… the angry catfish. This last rather, fishy treatment was found on a tablet dating to about 3,500 B.C.

Now, lest I am accused of being in a state of torpor, I’ll be finishing my coffee and getting on with my day of “work,” which includes a dog walk, working on a few more animal drawings, and most probably a trip to Six Flags.


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