Michael Quinion wordseditor at WORLDWIDEWORDS.ORG
Tue Dec 6 09:24:58 UTC 2005

Darla Wells wrote:

> I saw a reference to the use of folklore to save people from the Asian
> tsunami, but this is the first time I have seen the term geomythology.Is
> that a new one?

Yes, I saw that article, too. It says that it is a "new science", both
words in the phrase being open to dissent. It's true that the term hasn't
yet reached the dictionaries. But examples have been around for at least a
decade, the earliest of which I can find is in an item about a house fire:

1994 Indian Country Today (Lakota Times) 23 Feb I had two manuscripts on
computer. I lost five chapters on geomythology.

In "First Fossil Hunters: Paleontology in Greek and Roman Times", by
Adrienne Mayor (2001), the author says: "The word 'geomythology' was
coined in 1968 by Dorothy Vitaliano, a geologist interested in folklore,
to describe etiological legends that explain -- in poetic metaphor and
mythological imagery -- volcanoes, earthquakes, and landforms."

Michael Quinion
Editor, World Wide Words
E-mail: wordseditor at

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