Sunday, June 22, 2008

A is for Antipodes

The first time I heard the word antipodes was in a class during my naval career. The word was mispronounced by the person who used it (and didn’t know what it meant). Everyone turned to me since I was known for an obsession with words. I had never heard it, but naturally had a dictionary close at hand and looked it up. We found out the proper pronunciation does not rhyme with Shanty Codes but rather with Euripides, putting the accent on the second syllable, i.e. an-TIP-uh-deez. The definition of the word is “any two places that are situated diametrically opposite one another on the earth's surface.” From Greek through Latin, the word means literally “the feet opposite.” So the people at the antipodes (on the other side of the earth) have their feet opposite us.

The Antipodes, when used as a proper noun, refers to Australia and New Zealand since they have their feet diametrically opposite to the people of England. British sailors apparently coined the word in the 19th century. (
Note: Strictly speaking Australia and New Zealand are not at the exact antipodes of Great Britain. Wikepedia has an interesting map and article here.)

The word antipodes can also refer to “the exact opposite or contrary of something” (as can antipode, a word coined by back-formation from antipodes).

Antipodes reminds me of a related "pod" word, tetrapod. Literally meaning "four feet," some 10,000 tetrapods were used in the construction of the Rota Naval Station. Carefully placed to provide a seawall to protect a large artificial harbor entrance, the tetrapod became the station's symbol. We were stationed in Rota for a total of 10 wonderful years.

The picture below is from the Stars and Stripes newspaper from April 26, 2006.

Ted Rohde ©Stars and Stripes
Rota, Spain, September 9, 1957: Huge concrete tetrapods are piled up on the beach at Rota, site of a new U.S.-Spanish naval base. The French-designed tetrapods, weighing between 8 and 25 tons each, were used to break up wave action and absorb the ocean's eroding energy.

For more information on the Rota Naval Station, check out the website here. (Warning to my family: don't spend too much time on this site. You'll get homesick!) (Note: The main Naval Station site seems to be down for some reason. I have substituted another web site.)


Bonnie said...

I'm sure as kids we called these tripods ... weird. I don't ever remember saying tetrapod ... Anyway, I'm going to go visit the link in a moment and make myself more homesick that I already am !! ha ha. I've been chatting with some old friend from DGF on facebook. One of them goes back to Spain every two years !

This photo already takes me back. Now show me a photo of green above ground water pipes and I'll lose it ! ha ha.

How cool that I can say I live in the antipodes ! (and pronounce it correctly !!)

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