Editor's Note attached
the VOA Special English program, WORDS AND THEIR
week at this time, the Voice of America tells about popular words and
expressions used in the United States.
Some of these words and expressions are old. Some are new.
Together, they form the living speech of the American people.
story today is very old. It goes back
about five-thousand years. It is about a
sign that is used to represent some words.
see this sign on drug stores and whenever we visit a doctor to get an order for
medicine. It also appears on bottles of
pills and other medicines.
sign is formed by a line across the right foot of the letter "R." It represents the word "prescription." It has come to mean "take this medicine."
The sign has its beginnings five
thousand years ago in Egypt. At that
time, people prayed to Horus, the god of the Sun. It was said that when Horus was a child, he
was attacked by Seth, the demon of evil.
The evil Seth put out the eye of the
young Horus. The mother of Horus called
for help. Her cry was answered by Thoth,
the god of learning and magic. Thoth,
with his wisdom and special powers, healed the eye of Horus. And the child was able to see again.
ancient Egyptians used a drawing of the eye of Horus as a magic sign to protect
themselves from disease, suffering and evil.
They cut this sign in the stones they used for buildings. And it was painted on the papyrus rolls used
for writing about medicine and doctors.
For thousands of years, the eye of Horus
remained as a sign of the god's help to the suffering and sick.
after the fall of the ancient Egyptian civilization, doctors and alchemists in
Europe continued the custom of showing a sign of the gods' help and
protection. But over the years, the sign
changed from the eye of Horus to the sign for Jupiter, the chief god of the
Romans. Jupiter's sign looked much like
the printed number "four."
sign changed, also. Today, it is the
easily-recognized capital "R" with a line across its foot.
The sign no longer offers heavenly
assistance to the sick. It now means
"take this medicine."
This VOA Special English
program WORDS AND THEIR STORIES was written by Frank Beardsley. The narrator was Maurice Joyce. I'm Warren Sheer.
Editor's Note: This program was first broadcast many years ago. A comment posted below points out that there are two stories of where the term Rx may have come from. MedicineNet.com explains it this way:
The symbol "Rx" is usually said to stand
for the Latin word "recipe" meaning "to take." It is customarily part
of the superscription (heading) of a prescription.
for the origin of Rx is that it was derived from the astrological sign
for Jupiter which was once placed on prescriptions to invoke that god's
blessing on the drug to help the patient recover.