The Joy of Language Learning

A Pedantic Pedagogue

Did you know:
Education of children received laudable attention in ancient Athens. The school curriculum was divided into three categories: writing, music and gymnastics. At the age of six, the child was enrolled in one of the many schools run by professional schoolmasters. There, his day typically started with classes on writing, reading and arithmetic. This was followed by the music class in which he learnt how to play the lyre and set famous poems to music. Thereafter, he would visit the gymnasium and participate in wrestling and other athletic contests with other boys his age.

From the time he left his house till he returned home in the evening, he was under the supervision of a slave, who was his guardian, his tutor and his nurse. This slave was called paidagōgos which is made up of two Greek words pais (or paid-) which means boy/chid and agogos which means leader (thus aptly describing the role of the slave who led the child from his home to school).

Education in Ancient Greece (Photo Credit:
Education in Ancient Greece (Photo Credit:
A 'ped-agogue' with a child (Photo Credit:
A ‘ped-agogue’ with a child (Photo Credit:


Subsequently, pedagogue took on the meaning of a teacher, especially, one who is too opinionated or is a stickler for formal rules.

In this sense it is similar to the word pedant – a pedantic speaker is too academic or pompous – concerned more about displaying their bookish knowledge than sharing it, and a person with pedantic concern for grammar is so fussy about every grammatical rule that people often tire with their pedantry!

Pedantic Petty Thief (Copyright:
Pedantic Petty Thief (Copyright:
Pedagogy of the Oppressed
Pedagogy of the Oppressed








The word pedagogy, though, retains its older meaning and refers to the art of teaching or training (with no negative connotation).

Some other words related to pais are paediatrics (the branch of medicine that deals with children and their diseases), encyclopaedia (which literally means ‘circular i.e. holistic education’ and encyclopaedic (which carries the sense of broad and comprehensive learning).

Words discussed:
Pedagogue*, Pedagogy*
Pedant**, Pedantic**, Pedantry
Paediatrics, Encyclopedia, Encyclopedic*

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