Posted by: episystechpubs | February 26, 2013

Editor’s Corner: Flying Fingers?

I was catching up on a lecture series about forensics yesterday and I ran across the word “dactylography.” I thought it was interesting since the only other time I recall hearing “dactyl” was while learning dinosaur names (pterodactyl). Since I was watching a lecture on fingerprinting, I wanted to know what the connection between fingerprints and flying dinosaurs was. It was then that I turned to my trusty dictionary. From Merriam-Webster (slightly edited):

dactylography: the scientific study of fingerprints as a means of identification

pterodactyl: any of numerous extinct flying reptiles…having no feathers, a wing membrane extending from the side of the body along the arm to the end of the greatly enlarged fourth digit, and a tail usually rather short but sometimes expanded and resembling a rudder

Once again, it turns out a little Greek goes a long way:

· ptero-: from Greek pteron (wing)

· dactyl: from Greek daktylos (finger)

· -graphy: word-forming element meaning "process of writing or recording" or "a writing, recording, or description," from French or German -graphie, from Greek -graphia "description of," from graphein "write, express by written characters….

That may be a long way to go to find out that “dactyl” relates to fingers, but now you can really impress the paleontologists and forensics experts you meet each day.

A little Greek goes a long way…

Kara Church

Senior Technical Editor

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