Stromata1: My patchwork of ideas and gleanings

I learned the term Stromata from Clement of Alexandria, a second-century philosopher who converted to Christianity and whose collection of thoughts and jottings is given this title (Stromateis, in Greek).

It is sometimes translated as “miscellanies” or “patchwork,” two delightfully appropriate labels for what I’m doing in this writing, so I’ve commandeered it to label my often tentative and unfinished musings about what I’ve learned and continue to learn.

For example, today on the seeming indelicate “Poo Calendar” is listed as “World Toilet Day.”

This should not be taken lightly.

According to organizers of the World Toilet Organization (, founded on this day in 2005, about 40 percent of the world’s population, approximately 2.4 billion people, lives without access to toilets or latrines.

An estimated one billion people around the globe still practice open defecation. The costs of such a lack of fundamental sanitation are devastating and include increased disease and death, especially among children.

Even in the United States, the 2000 census report indicated more people owned television sets than had indoor plumbing with toilets.

Fortunately, that figure has changed, putting indoor plumbing slightly higher than owning a TV set, but some say the shift is more a result of TV watchers “cutting the cords” of indoor TV for more convenient digital entertainment than it is a case of improved sanitation.

The taboo on talking about toilets provided an instigation for the founder of the World Toilet Organization, Jack Sim, who noted: “If we can’t talk about it, we can’t fix it.”

Here’s a second example of Stromata:

The word for the study of correct pronunciation is Orthoepy. (or-THO-a-pee)

Of course, one doesn’t learn a great deal about pronunciation from books and scholarship, but from hearing and imitation.

Take the word Vidalia, which refers to a particular sweet onion.

You might, as I often did, pronounce it VIH-dale-ya, but my Georgia friend corrected me: it’s VYE-dale-ya (though some drop the el-sound), and is named after the city in which these onions were first grown in Georgia in the 1930s.

Production of Vidalia onions is now limited by federal code to the 13 counties around Vidalia in east central Georgia. Onions produced elsewhere are called, simply, onions!

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