While on a walk through Melbourne with my husband, we saw a plaque commemorating the completion of the Trades Hall in 1924. I know I should have been reflective, awed even, at the labor struggles that brought this plaque to bear, but all I did was giggle that it said “erection” in big, chiseled letters. Embarrassing, yes, but it made me wonder about the origins of the word “erection” and how it can describe both a building and a specific type of male enthusiasm.
It comes from the Latin erectus, which means “upright,” like the early upright human-ancestor Homo erectus (I remember the muffled giggling in my physical anthropology courses when this genus/species was introduced). Erectus is derived, distantly, from the Latin word regere meaning “to direct, keep straight, or guide.” Apparently, regere is also the root of the word “regal.” Had I a penis, I think I’d like to think of it as such.
Photo by Kate McCombs