And so, the tale goes: Greek scholar Archimedes, one of the finest mathematicians of the antiquity, jumps out of his bath in excitement as he makes a remarkable scientific discovery. Delighted by the revelation, the unclothed scholar immediately dashes for the streets of Syracuse, all the while shouting “Eureka! Eureka!”. Perhaps, still covered in bubbles.
It wasn’t until recently when I realised that Eureka was not just an out-of-the-blue exclamative sound that came out of Archimedes’ mouth in sheer excitement that we, as innate lovers of entertainment, took and ran with. No, the word means “I have found it” in Greek.
I was first amused by the thought that excitement can bring us to yell randomised phonetic noises and take to the streets in glee, a thought that elicits a chuckle from me as I sit with it.
But now, I’m even more fond of the idea that sometimes human emotion simply transcends words. We seek new ways of expressing ourselves through new sounds, other languages, and various ways not encapsulated by what we know as words.
Pshaw. Gee. Phooey. Egad! Etymology just simply doesn’t always make sense.
I present to you the late 14th century origin of the word “aha!”.
I’ve been thinking about my own ‘A-ha!’ moments recently.
In Thomas Edison’s words, “Sometimes breakthroughs arrive not by choice – but by chance”. I feel inclined to disagree.
Breakthroughs take a lot of work and more often happen after building upon a collective foundation of knowledge. In my day-to-day, reaching conclusions is more about togetherness and communing with the bright individuals around you as a sounding board for thoughts and ideas, than it is an undiscovered genius reaching a magical epiphany.
There’s no doubt that the world of breakthroughs is filled with unexpected realisations. In 1945, Percy Spencer an ex-WWI Navy man and electronics genius was fiddling with a magnetron when he felt a strange sensation, a sizzling even. Pausing, he reaches for the chocolate bar in his pocket that had started to melt and concluded that the radiation was to blame. Thus, the microwave oven was born – saviour of lazy home cooks worldwide.
I highly doubt that I will discover the next flying microwave, but I’ll continue to revel in the simple epiphanies I experience every day. Helping people unpack their tales, values, personal missions and coming to the sudden realisation that my team is sitting on the perfect editorial story is a never-ending loop of that Eureka! feeling.