Friday, August 19, 2016

Not Ag-ain!

Whoa, not so fast!

The modern Olympic Games began in 1896, but it wasn't until the 1904 Summer Games in St. Louis that gold, silver and bronze medals were awarded for first, second and third place. (In 1896, winners were awarded a silver medal, and second-place finishers received a copper medal. Prizes other than medals were given in 1900.) These medal metals are rooted in Greek mythology's Ages of Man, which are the stages of human existence on Earth. Hesiod, a Greek poet, wrote about five eras of humanity: Golden Age, Silver Age, Bronze Age, Heroic Age and Iron Age. In the Golden Age, humans lived among the gods. In the Silver Age, men lived for 100 years without growing up and were destroyed by Zeus because of their impiety. In the Bronze Age, men were strong but violent, and they were ultimately consumed by their warlike rage.

Greek mythology gave us our Olympic metals, but science provided their value system. All three elements* — which you'll find in the same column on the periodic table — can be found in their native form. Copper (chemical symbol: Cu) is the lightest and most abundant of the three metals. Gold (Au) is the heaviest and most rare. Silver (Ag) falls in between, in weight and abundance. To the victor goes the scarcest, most valuable metal.

In short, if you finish first, you win gold. If you finish second, you get silver. If you finish third, you take bronze.

So why did bronze dash off in this USA Today article, leaving silver in its wake? That second silver is anything but sterling. The third-to-last word in the paragraph should, like George Hamilton, be bronze.

In a race to meet his deadline, I suppose, the writer introduced an error. Next time, he should do something Usain Bolt, Justin Gatlin and Andre De Grasse (note the capital D) rarely do: Take it slow.

* Bronze isn’t an element, but it is an alloy consisting primarily of copper.

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