Today marks the beginning of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. During April, I will be posting on each letter of the alphabet. As with last year’s challenge, I have no particular theme. Maybe it’s the Random in me that prefers to let the day’s letter inspire a word that inspires the post.
It all started with the word antagonist. Given my interest in reading, writing, storytelling, and improv, I naturally thought of an antagonist’s role in a story. However, when I looked up the definition, I remembered from exercise physiology that antagonist also refers to a muscle that opposes the agonist or prime mover.
One thing I’ve noticed in exploring words is that one word leads to another. Antagonist led to agonist led to protagonist led to agony.
Of course these words are related. According to Miriam-Webster.com, An agonist is “one that is engaged in a struggle.” An antagonist is “one that contends with or opposes another.”
So, an antagonist is meaningless without an agonist or other to oppose. Conversely, an agonist is also meaningless without something to struggle against.
At first glance, I wondered why the word protagonist is necessary if we already have agonist. The answer lies in the “prot” prefix, which refers to the first, or primary. So a protagonist is a special form of agonist.
Investigating these words helped to enrich my understanding of the protagonist and antagonist in writing. For example, the words share roots with the word agony. In my own writing, I sometimes find myself being too easy on the protagonist. Yet, in a story worth telling, the main character will likely go through some agony along the way.
Another insight comes from the fact that the antagonist muscle serves to limit and control the agonist. The two are paired, intimately connected. (The reference to limits and control also makes me think of frames, a topic in last year’s A to Z Challenge.)
Have you ever looked into words you thought you knew well and discovered something new?