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Truly Epic Words and Phrases from Mythology

Mythology2Have you ever finished a conversation wishing your words had a more lasting impression? Do you want your similes and metaphors to sound more intelligent? Then look no further than to the realm of mythology. With an abundance of literature stocked full of literally epic deeds and the characters who performed them, it’s the perfect place to begin your search. Here are three words and one phrase based in mythology we should consider using much more often.

Protean – tending or able to change frequently or easily

Proteus was a mythological shape shifter. As an early sea-god, he took after the waters over which he ruled, taking many forms throughout his existence.

It seems protean is an adjective made for politics. If Proteus had chosen to spend more time on land and run for office, he may very well be president of the world today. By constantly changing shape and opinion, he could have convinced anyone to believe anything. In short, beware the protean politician!

Stentorian – (of a person’s voice) loud and powerful

Coming from Stentor, the herald of the Greek forces in the Illiad with an exceptionally loud voice, he was a man who could really get his point across.

Have you ever been hushed or felt ignored in the presence of others? Try channeling Stentor and see how many heads will turn the next time you give a speech. If that doesn’t work, you could always buy a megaphone.

Sisyphean – endlessly laborious or futile

If you’ve heard of Sisyphus, you’re probably most familiar with his fate. This deceitful character was forced to roll a giant boulder up a hill only to watch it roll back down…for eternity.

I used to teach English as a second language. After a full year of drilling the difference between nice to meet you and nice to see you, I thought I knew what to expect when I greeted each student before the final exam. It went mostly like this:

TEACHER: Hello, nice to see you again.

STUDENT: Hello teacher, nice to meet you!

Although I was nowhere near a rock quarry, my life had still become quite Sisyphean.

Mythology1Pyrrhic victory – a victory with such devastating costs that it is tantamount to defeat

This phrase originates with Pyrrhus, the Greek king of Epirus, whose army was victorious (but at the same time decimated) by the much larger Roman forces in two battles during the Pyrrhic War in the 3rd century BC.

Barring participation in outright war, it might be difficult to apply to our everyday lives, but let’s pretend you and your neighbor are three weeks into an all-out volume war, with both of your stereos cranked to eleven in the wee hours of the morning. You awake one day to find a moving van in front of your neighbors place. It’s certainly great news…until you find the eviction notice taped to your front door. Congratulations! You’ve just won your first Pyrrhic victory. What are your favorite words from mythology?