Ovate, We Have Great Examples from All Around

  • The etymology of "circle" comes from the Latin circuulus and the Greek words kirkos and krikos (“hoop” or “ring”). From these origins, we’ll find words such as circus (as in “three ring”), circuit (a circular journey), circa (around a certain date), circumnavigate (travel around something) and circumcise (let’s just say cut around something and leave it at that).
  • Humanity’s fascination with the wheel goes back a good 40,000 years, when petroglyphs (circular marks) were found carved into rock. Although anthropologists are unsure what these crude spirals and wheels meant, they all agree that these ancient guys were totally obsessed. 

  • Scientists consider the four greatest achievements in early civilization to be the creation of fire, the domestication of animals, the ability to produce crops and the invention of the wheel.
  • Speaking of, the first recorded mention of the wheel (around 3,500 B.C. in Mesopotamia) described its primary use as a potter’s wheel and not for transportation. It wasn’t until 300 years later that the Greeks came up with the wheelbarrow. From there, they quickly moved on to chariots.
  • Unfortunately, one of the very next inventions was a medieval torture device called the “Catherine wheel.”
  • Giotto di Bondone and the Story of O: In the 14th century, Pope Benedict XI desired new paintings to adorn Saint Peter’s Basilica. Sending a trusted assistant across Florence in search of the best, one of his first stops was to see Giotto, a well-known painter and sculptor and the breakout star of the Italian renaissance. When asked to submit a sample of his work, Giotto took his brush, pinned his arm to his side and in one sweeping motion drew a perfect circle onto the canvas. Feeling a bit shortchanged, the assistant asked for another example, but Giotto insisted that it was “more than enough.” The assistant returned to the Vatican and related to the Pope how the artist had drawn his submission without aid. The Pope was duly impressed and Giotto got the gig.
  • The symbolism of the circle, especially in religion, is universal and unwavering. In the 6th century Pythagoras called it “monad,” or the most perfect of creative forms. Looking to the skies and seeing the sun and moon, the circle became the essence of unity, totality, enlightenment and infinity. It’s seen as a protective shield against evil, without beginning or end. As the circle was also a zero, it came to represent the embryo – the ultimate symbol of unlimited potential – and the necessary component for birth. Throughout the centuries from halos to yin yang, the circle has been a most significant shape.
  • While under the heading of “duh,” it’s still worth mentioning the prevalence of the round in sports. Due to the fact that they’re easier to roll, bounce and catch (not to mention, if square they’d put an eye out), virtually every ball, baton and stadium are in some way circular. Even in boxing, though the arena is square, they fight in rounds! Go figure.

The different types of circular shapes include the:

  • Sphere – like planets, bubbles, balls and Christmas ornaments, these are 3-D shapes whose surface at any point is equidistant from the center.
  • Oval – like footballs, eggs, rack tracks, kiwis and the end of a spoon, the oval (or ovoid) is basically a squashed circle. The word oval comes from the Latin ovalis which literally means “egg-shaped.” In this category, we also have the ellipse (an egg on its side), ovates (teardrops and leaves) and the cardioid (from hearts to apples to cartoon-shaped hineys, it’s a circle with a dip or curve).
  • Spiral – like coil springs, snail shells, corkscrews and tornados, these shapes begin at a fixed point then “spiral” away or toward that point. It’s also known as a helix.
  • Cylinder – like batteries, cans, candles, toilet paper rolls and bank deposit tubes, it’s any round-shaped object with a circular base and straight sides.
  • While the remaining circulars have many names they’re basically the same, such as globe, disc, hoop and ring.

In everyday phrases and idioms, we find:

  • Vicious circle – Reciprocal events that only get worse as they continue. Being thrown into jail for unpaid debts and thus unable to work to earn money to pay off the debts is an excellent example.
  • Oval – like footballs, eggs, rack tracks, kiwis and the end of a spoon, the oval (or ovoid) is basically a squashed circle. The word oval comes from the Latin ovalis which literally means “egg-shaped.” In this category, we also have the ellipse (an egg on its side), ovates (teardrops and leaves) and the cardioid (from hearts to apples to cartoon-shaped hineys, it’s a circle with a dip or curve).
  • Circle the wagons – During the western migration in the 1800s, American settlers traveled by covered wagons. When under attack by hostiles, they would navigate them into a circle to create a wall of defense. Today the term refers to a group of people banding together and getting their stories straight to avoid trouble from outside sources.

  • Round trip – While the actual travel route rarely forms a circle, any journey to one place that ends in the original point of departure is considered round.
  • Make the rounds – The same thing goes for doctors who visit patients. They may not make a circle, but they most certainly make their way around. Eventually.
  • Inner circle – As an impenetrable and secluded shape, any group of like-minded folks are safely nestled inside one of these.
  • Winner’s circle – The designated area where victorious horses, jockeys and race car drivers are gathered to receive accolades (and, we assume, pick up new sponsors as well).
  • A good (or bad) egg – Originating down on the farm as an indication of whether cackle fruit was edible, this term came to describe a nice (or not so nice) person.
  • Balls and ball gowns – Derived in 1791 from the Latin word ballare (“to dance”), formal affairs, as well as the wardrobes worn to them and the rooms they were held in, have all been given this well-rounded term.

In music, there’s:

  • A Perfect Circle – Artsy alt rock founded and fronted by Tool vocalist Maynard J. Keenan.
  • The Cyrkle – All fellow students from Lafayette College, this trio hit the jackpot when they were discovered (and briefly managed) by Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein. John Lennon suggested the odd spelling and even invited them to be their opening act during their 1966 U.S. tour. That same year, they reached #2 in the charts with the Paul Simon tune “Red Rubber Ball.” Ironic, right?
  • “Moon Song” and “Round and Round” – Two circle-centric tunes by Austin native and former boyfriend of Sandra Bullock, Bob Schneider. In fact, on “Round and Round,” Sandra’s mother (an opera singer of note) added background vocals.
  • “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” – Written in 1907, this classic Christian tune has been recorded by musicians from Bob Dylan to the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and is sung religiously every year at the Country Music Hall of Fame awards.
  • “Spinning Wheel” – #2 hit and 1970 Grammy-winning song by Canadian group Blood, Sweat & Tears.
  • “Murder Go Round” – R-rated tune (and rumored to be the inspiration for the Chili Pepper’s “Give It Away”), it’s a concert staple for everyone’s favorite group Insane Clown Posse.

And in film:

  • Dead Heat on a Merry Go Round – This crime drama, centered around the robbery of an airport bank, stars James Coburn and features Harrison Ford in his film debut.
  • The Circle – Hired by the world’s largest tech company, Emma Watson uncovers evildoings led by company president Tom Hanks. Overall, a colossal waste of talent and time.
  • Circle of Friends – Set in 1950s Ireland, students experience college life, childhood friends reunite and a handsome stranger thickens the plot.
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