Saturday, September 26, 2020


I mean, who else?
Also a big hint? When the caller ID says “Spam Caller”.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Language Of Confusion: -Serts

A follow up of last week (which of course was just a redo). I kind of looked at some of these words way back in 2013, where I looked at words ending in -sort, and it turns out that sort and consort are from the same place as words ending in -sert. So hey! That’s like half of this post already done for me!

Quick recap: sort showed up in the mid fourteenth century as a verb and late fourteenth century as a noun, from the Old French sortir (ver) and sorte (noun). Both of those are from the classical Latin sors, lot, from the Proto Indo European ser-, to line up. And that ser- is where all these -sert words come from.
Assert showed up in the seventeenth century, from the classical Latin assertus and its verb form asserere, to assert. It’s a mix of the prefix ad-, to, and serere, to join together or to put in a row, and that’s from -ser. To assert is… to put in a row? Insert makes a bit more sense. It showed up in the sixteenth century, from the Latin insertus and its verb form inserere, which meant to plant, and since the in- prefix is from en and literally means in, that makes this one “to plant in”. I assume that was once a bit more literal than it is now.
Also related is dissertation—I assume anyone with a PhD is now having horrible flashbacks. It showed up in the early seventeenth century meaning discussion or debate, and in the middle of the century started specifically referring to research projects for doctoral degrees. It’s from the Late Latin dissertationem, from the classical Latin verb dissertare, to be discussing, and disserere, to discuss. The dis- means apart and with serere, that makes it to join together apart or put in rows apart. Sure. Well, in a metaphorical sense, words are being “joined together”. Not really sure where the apart figures in, though.
It probably won’t surprise anyone to learn that series is related. It showed up in the early seventeenth century meaning… a set of things arranged in a line. Then in the eighteenth century it meant a set of printed works published consecutively, then in 1862 it was a set of baseball games on consecutive games, and in 1949, a set of radio/television programs with the same characters and themes. So that’s how that evolved. It comes from the classical Latin series, which (shocker) means series—but also a row, chain, or sequence. Nothing too outlandish here.
Now for the final ser- word, and I can almost guarantee you aren’t expecting this one: sorcery. Really! And it’s the oldest of these words, having shown up in the fourteenth century. It’s from the Old French sorcerie, from sorcier, sorcerer, and that’s from the Medieval Latin sortiarius, a sorcerer or fortuneteller. And that happens to be from sors, which again, means lot—as in one’s lot (or fate) in life. Somehow, that gave us sorcery.
Online Etymology Dictionary
Google Translate
University of Texas at Austin Linguistic Research Center
University of Texas at San Antonio’s page on Proto Indo European language
Dictionary of Medieval Latin
Orbis Latinus

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

From The Spam Files

Yay, spam posts! Those are always so easy. And it’s been so long since I’ve done one. They’re really piling up. Too bad I have to do them in the stupid awful new blogger interface. Good news, though: I figured out how to get rid of the crappy formatting: in the toolbar where it says Paragraph, select the little arrow and switch it to Normal. Much better. Kind of feel like it should’ve been the default, though.

You probably make more money selling the guides for investing in gold. That’s probably one level up in the pyramid scheme they’re obviously running.

Okay, hear me out: we take the fifteen thousand dollars we can get in one click and—are you still following me—use it to buy gold and silver. You can’t lose!

You mean a stable income and enough free time to work on all my projects? Sign me up right now!

…This is how you advertise to people? Really? REALLY?

Okay, comrade, but what of the revolution?

Holy crap guys! I have a wife and I didn’t even know it! And apparently she receives calls like literally every human being on the planet!

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Language Of Confusion: Desert, Revisited

What was the very first word I ever looked at the etymology of? Desert, of all things. I have no idea why I picked that word, but knowing me, I was reading something and thinking of how annoying it was that words are spelled the same but mean something completely different. And how much more annoying it is when they’re pronounced different. Make up your mind, words!

Looking back at it isn’t too cringe-worthy, but it could definitely use some improvements. I didn’t even cite any sources! Although in my defense, that may have just been revenge for all the stupid papers I had to write in college. Frigging MLA formatting.

Anyway, let’s take another look at desert. It showed up as a noun first in the thirteenth century, meaning a barren wasteland, but also a wilderness—it even referred to woods at one point before meaning a place that’s empty of everything. By the mid thirteenth century, it had an adjective form, which we don’t really use much these days except when we say desert island. It wasn’t until the seventeenth century that the verb showed up, and it actually didn’t come from the noun. Although they did both come from the same place.

The noun desert comes from the Old French desert, same meaning, and Late Latin desertum, something abandoned. It’s from the classical Latin deserere, to leave or abandon (why to desert means what it does), and that’s where the verb desert comes from. It’s actually a mix of the prefix de- (undo) and serere, which somehow means things that are joined together or planted in a row. Yeah. Really. It’s from the Proto Indo European ser-, meaning to line up, which is in so many words, it’s going to have to be its own post. Maybe next week!

Fun fact: there is another form of desert that’s not related to the above. You know how people say someone got their “just deserts”? Yeah, that’s unrelated to the other desert. Actually, that word is more related to dessert than desert! That desert showed up in the fourteenth century, meaning deserving a certain treatment for a behavior. It’s from the Old French deserte, merit or recompense, from the verb deservir, to be worthy of, from the classical Latin deservire, to serve. And as it turns out, dessert, which showed up in the seventeenth century from the Middle French dessert, is from the classical Latin desservir, to clear the table. If it’s not obvious, deservir and desservir are from the same place, the root word servir, serve. Deservir has the prefix de- in front, meaning completely, while the des- in desservir comes from dis-, undo. Just deserts are completely deserved, and desserts are un-serving (because they’re the final thing you eat, it’s the end of a serving).


Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Ten Years

Ten years. As of tomorrow, I started this blog ten years ago. It’s mind-boggling that it’s been that amount of time. I suppose I should be more reflective, but I think 2020 has sapped all my interest in looking back at the past.

I had no idea what I was doing back then, that’s for sure. I was trying (too hard, I think) to figure out what my “thing” should be and often just spewing out words and seeing what would stick. Spoiler alert! Nothing did. I would do contests and giveaways, as was popular at the time, and join different blogging events—remember those??? And let’s not forget the “awards” people would give. Hey, it filled time.

A lot of the people who commented back then have disappeared into the aether of the internet. Some of them are still out there, but just faded from my life, which happens sometimes. Others are just gone, the links on their names leading to blogs that haven’t updated in years, or perhaps to nowhere at all. But a few people are actually still regularly commenting on my posts. Liz A. first commented (on one of my Language Of Confusion posts, appropriately enough) on November 2, 2010 (yes, I checked, shut up) and she’s still my most faithful commenter (Thanks, Liz!). Before long, I had other people drop in who are still hanging around for some reason—Su Wilcox, William Kendell (another who’s been with me almost since the beginning), Andrew Leon, Alex Cavanaugh, MJ Fifield, L. Diane Wolfe, Kate Larkindale. I’m so glad you guys still come around! It’s been years, and I haven’t met any of you in person! Thanks to all of you. I really appreciate your friendship.

One of my first popular (okay, relatively popular) posts was my very first Language Of Confusion post. They weren’t always big draws, but they still remain my favorite of these posts, in addition to being the most regular topic I discuss on here. Some of them are… not up to my current standards, though. So one thing I’m going to do now that I have ten years of etymologizing under my belt (the first one was October 17, 2010, so almost a month after I started blogging), I’m going to redo some of my old posts. They definitely could use some better explanations!

Ten years!!!

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Coming Back

Vacation highs don’t last long these days.
That lasted all of five minutes.