June 18, 2013

Case File #013.06.18: XYLOPHONE

Xylophone was formed by combining two ancient Greek words: xylon, meaning “wood,” and phone, meaning “voice” or “sound.” Thus, xylophone literally means “wooden sound,” which makes sense when you consider that the tuned bars or keys of the instrument are traditionally made of wood—some modern versions also have keys made of synthetic materials such as fiberglass or acrylic—and that xylophones are often played using wooden-headed mallets. Although the instrument has been around since at least the ninth century and its most closely related precursors since the sixth century, the word xylophone wasn't coined until 1866. And the derivative xylophonist didn't show up until 1927, so who knows who was playing all those unnamed xylophones during the millennium prior.

©2013 Michael R. Gates

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