For most of us, the word ‘sandwich’ brings to mind two slices of bread with your favourite childhood filling tucked between them. To Dhruv Raj Sharma and his vibrant team at Logophilia Education Pvt. Ltd. However, the word ‘sandwich’ tells a story about John Montagu (1718-1792), the Fourth Earl of Sandwich. A compulsive gambler, he was so obsessed with the game that even hunger was a secondary thought. When hungry, he’d often put together slices of cold meat and bread instead of ‘wasting time’ eating a whole meal. From this humble beginning came the simple ‘sandwich’.
While we won't forget that story in a hurry, Dhruv insists that every word has an extraordinary tale to tell. His fascination with words began at the early age of eight, when he dictated manuscripts to his father – a writer - as he typed it out on a typewriter. Later on, his brush with Psycholinguistics - how the brain understands and uses languages - during his post-graduation was when a thought dawned on him. He figured that since there is a so much more than meets the eye in the case of most words, connecting with words was the best way to study anything.
Dhruv started Logophilia Education Pvt. Ltd. in 2010 on a mission to demystify words and make sure that we don’t pre-order vodka when we hear the word ‘isobar’ - a noun that means a line on a map connecting points of equal (-iso in Greek) atmospheric pressure (-bar in Greek).
“Guess-work is one of the ways in which the human brain deals with ambiguity. Whenever we don’t know something, we speculate. If we are doing so much guessing I think our guess-work should be a little more trained and that’s what I do,” says Dhruv to summarise his work.
Rebelling against the ‘one size fits all’ policy that our education system generally imposes, Logophilia has put together a number of programs to suit the needs of colleges, schools and corporates etc. The start-up has travelled across five Indian states to some of the best institutions like IIT (Kanpur, Delhi, Madras), Lady Shri Ram College, St. Stephen’s College and even to two schools in the United States of America.
Dhruv enthralled and educated the 200-strong audience at the recently concluded Logophilia Uni Workshop at Saarang, IIT Madras. His tools of choice - word roots, suffixes, prefixes, stories, bad jokes, etc - were all gainfully employed to make this live performance fun.
Logophilia claims to be the only known English Etymology Education company in the world and if that was not reason enough to celebrate this start-up, Dhruv lures us more towards etymology using the one word that unfailingly works its charm on us all the time- Food!
And that is how we figured that the biscuit we love to dunk in chai has Latin origins from the word (panis) bis coctus or ‘(bread) twice-baked’ indicating that it is cooked twice. Vinegar is derived from the Latin root ‘vin’, which means wine and comes from the preparation process, which includes fermenting ethanol, similar to making wine.
That’s not all, as Dhruv surprises us with more. The delectable pasta we drool over, literally comes from Latin and means ‘dough, paste’ while the Taishan dialect of Chinese brings us Chowmein (‘fried flour’) and the French word mariner lends itself to marinate or ‘to pickle in sea brine’.
With such a rich platter of words, we commend Dhruv’s idea to change the way we look at words and we were left asking for more of both - words and of course, food too!