Have You Ever Heard Of These Strange Studies?

You've probably heard of biology, ecology, and geology. Maybe you've even heard of dialectology, microbiology, or theology. Perhaps even ... Scientiology. OK, we're not going to go there.

All of these words feature -logy, a combining form used in the names of sciences or bodies of knowledge. It derives from the Greek lógos, meaning "word, study, reason, discourse."

Now, have you ever heard of ... balneology or oikology? Let's take a tour of some lesser-known ologies. Degree not required!

autology

We practice autology just about every time we look at ourselves in the mirror—checking out new wrinkles, poking and prodding uninvited fleshy bits, and doing the scrunch-face to trim unsightly nose hairs.

Autology is the "study of oneself" or "self-knowledge," based on the Greek autós, meaning "self." Other words derived from this root include autograph and automobile.

balneology

Balneology is "the science dealing with the therapeutic effects of baths and bathing."

This is perhaps the most relaxing subject a person could specialize in. Candles, rose petals, and essential oils are extra credit.

It's based on the Greek balaneîon, "bathing room, bath." And here's an adjective we think we can incorporate into our vocab: balneal, "of or relating to baths or bathing."

dysteleology

Ever wondered how the whale feels about having a purposeless leg bone buried in its back? Or about the ostrich’s outlook on life, being a winged but flightless bird? The whale’s useless legs and the ostrich’s earth-bound wings are called vestigial structures, and they’re vestiges from prehistoric ancestors.

Which brings us to a word that, well, doesn't get a whole lot of use: dysteleology, the study of purposeless organs. This study was once used in justification of a larger philosophical a doctrine (also called dysteleology) denying the existence of a final cause or purpose in life and nature. Now we call it ... evolution.

escapology

Fans of Houdini would likely know that the famed magician was a master in escapology, "the method or skill of extricating oneself from handcuffs, chains, etc., as of a magician or other performer."

In total contrast to the delightful charm and exhilaration of magical escapology, countless mundane non-magicians are practiced escapologists when it comes to breaking away from the everyday constraints (i.e., responsibilities) in life. Alas, those escapologists are rarely applauded.

garbology

Perhaps you assumed this next field of study is related to the cutthroat world of high-end fashion and everything related to couture garbs.

Well, the garb in garbology is based on garbage. Garbology is "the study of the material discarded by a society to learn what it reveals about social or cultural patterns." And nope, this isn't something Oscar the Grouch pulled out of his ... can. It's a real thing!

With Americans producing about 270 million tons of trash in 2017 alone (that's over 4.5 pounds per person per day), garbologists have no shortage of material to analyze.

hamartiology

Hamartiology is the study of sin and is a branch of Christian theology. It comes from the Greek hamartia,  meaning “error, flaw, missing the mark.” Hey, we don't throw stones (or live in glass houses) here ...

kalology

What makes someone or something beautiful? Kalology, the study of beauty, sets out to answer such a question.

From the Greek kalós, “beautiful,” this field of study is akin to aestheticsthe critical evaluation of the beautiful in art. Kalology is sometimes specifically used for the determining beauty in the physical form of humans.

oikology

Oikology has a far-off, foreign sound, but the subject is far closer to home. In fact, it is the home, as oikology is the study or science of housekeeping. That puts a whole new spin on the word homework.

The root of oikology is the Greek oîkos, "house," which is ultimately the source of economy, based on a Greek word that means "household management." And that puts a whole new spin on the world economy!

philematology

K-I-S-S-I-N-G. Also spelled as philematology, which is the study of kissing. It comes from phílēma, Greek for "kiss."

A passionate kiss can involve up to 34 facial muscles. Make-out session? More like workout session!

scatology

Scatology, if you recall, deals with that illustrious study of dung. The feces in question can be fresh or fossilized. In biology, scatological research reveals information about a creature’s diet and health.

From an anthropological perspective, in the 1800s, John Gregory Burke wrote a comprehensive book on the subject, called Scatologic Rites of All Nations. He looked at how poop, or “excrementitious remedial agents,” was used around the world in religion, therapy, and witchcraft.  Everybody ... poops?

accidence

Higher powers must have a sense of humor to name the science of grammatical inflections accidence. Beyond the comic connotation of disasters and accidents, this word for the study of grammar inflections means looking at how words change form depending on their function. Like how a single toe becomes multiple toes with an -s. Or the life and death difference between live in the present and lived in the past.

You'll know just how complicated inflections can get if you've ever studied Latin, Greek, Sanskrit, or other ancient languages. And oh, there's a word for that, too: classical philology.

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