Good God, it’s the Evil Devil!

Add an o to the middle of God and what do you get? If you think that’s cool, try taking the D from Devil!

A neat little trick, one of those little things people use to show how apparently obvious things can go unnoticed right beneath our noses. Of course God is only one letter from good! But is there anything to the similarities between these words?

Sadly, no. Though the similarities between the words seem too close not to have been deliberate, it’s all simply a coincidence. An amazing coincidence, perhaps, but a coincidence nonetheless.

The word god (in a generic sense, not specifically the Christian god) is probably derived from the old Indo-European ghut, meaning summoned or invoked, or possibly gheu, meaning to offer a sacrifice. Good, on the other hand, is from the German gath, meaning bring together.

Devil is derived from the Greek word diabolos, whereas evil is derived from the Indo-European upelo which, interestingly, simply meant exceeding proper bounds. Evil only really took on the strength of meaning it has now in the 19th century.

While it is still quite a coincidence that these words are so similar, what makes see a connection between these similar but unrelated words is a phenomenon known as apophenia: the tendency to see patterns and connections between unrelated data. One particular example of this is pareidolia, the tendency to see faces in natural formations, such as the Man in the Moon or the face on Mars people went crazy over quite a few years back. It just goes to show how subjective our perceptions of the world. Such tendencies to think in apparently irrational ways are known as cognitive biases, and there are few of us who don’t fall prey to them. Just today I provided an example of one of the most common cognitive biases: the frequency illusion, or Baader-Meinhoff phenomenon. You know when you hear an obscure word for the first time, and then seem to notice it everywhere? Or you watch a certain film and see references to it everywhere. Or, like me, the city of Muscat comes up as a crossword clue, and hours later you notice a post on Facebook from a friend who’s there. Of course what’s happening is that your mind passed over the word before, but now that it’s been brought to your attention, you notice it more.

Harmless enough stuff, but it makes you wonder what other things your brain decides not to notice.

*man in gorilla suit walks past*

13 thoughts on “Good God, it’s the Evil Devil!

  1. Great post! I’m usually the guy that takes away letters to make different words but I never thought to look at God or the devil. Interesting for sure. I have found that when driving, I don’t notice the car’s model until I’m driving it and see the same model everywhere else.

    Liked by 1 person

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