I am going to share interesting words and their etymologies(stories behind their origins) every Friday on this blog.
Words have very interesting stories behind their origins and some of them are so peculiar that I am fond of them. This word ranks very highly when it comes to the peculiarity of its etymology.
In Greek Mythology Procrustes (Prokoptas or Damastes/”subduer”), was a rogue, smith and bandit from Attica who physically attacked people, stretching them, or cutting off their legs, so as to make them fit into an iron bed. In general, when something is Procrustean(prə(ʊ)ˈkrʌstɪən/), different lengths or sizes or properties are fitted to an arbitrary standard.
Procrustes used to offer an iron bed for relaxing to visitors who used to pass by the mountain where he lived. If the users of the bed were not fit to the bed he used to stretch them using his hammer, in turn killing them. Quite gory, I know! Nobody ever used to fit to his bed because he secretly had two of them.
In the modern sense, this word is used to suggest very arbitrary standards. You may insinuate towards social, educational or political norms of the day as being Procrustean mostly, because, no matter what you do, you will be a misfit! Education for example, has mostly been Procrustean, trying to fit students of all mental capacities into one frame–not providing for special needs of visual-spatial or ‘gifted’ students for most of the past century.