Friday, November 12, 2010

Language of Confusion: Rise of the Fallen

One of the worst subtitles ever. ‘Nuff said.

Avoid and evade. These two have to be fraternal twins. They might not share the same DNA, but they at least shared a uterus for nine months. Right? Well, let’s find out…

Avoid. Does it come from our friend Old French? Of course, but first, let’s look at a more immediate ancestor so it makes more sense. There is a language called Anglo-French, which was the French spoken in England after the Norman Conquest (1066). The people themselves were from Normandy, France (whose name, by the by, comes from their Norman invaders) and spoke Old French at the time. Avoid comes from the Anglo-French avoider (withdraw oneself), which was derived from the Old French esvuider. The es- means out and the -vuidier, not surprisingly, to be empty (or void). It’s interesting that the word we know as “escape from” comes from a word that literally means “out to be empty.”

That was where the word was born, but what about its “parents,” a- and -void? Void, like written above, is from vuidier (to be empty), which is the verb form of another Old French word, voide (empty). Voide comes from the classical Latin once so popular in Europe. The word is vocivus, vacant, from vacuus (empty), the derivative for vacuum and vacuous.

Next, evade. It came in the sixteenth century, two centuries after avoid first showed up. It is from Middle French, the descendent of Old French. The word is evader, meaning escape, itself coming from Classical Latin evadere, to escape. The –vadere part means “to go, to walk,” and the e- is from ex, indicating away. Another note: invade comes from invadere; with the in- prefix meaning into or upon, the word means “to walk in on” or, more appropriately, “to charge in on,” while evade is “to go away from.” The elude sense of the word started a few decades after the word first showed up in around 1510. I wasn’t able to find if vadere is related to vocivus, or if vuidier is related to vadere, which sounds like it makes sense. I need to learn more Classical Latin, I guess.

Unfortunately, I can’t definitively say whether or not they’re related. It’s possible, but my conclusion will have to be indeterminate from the available information.

And now, to finish it all off, here’s Kent Brockman: “I don’t say evasion. I say ah-voision.”

Thanks to the Online Etymology Dictionary. Again. And also the Norman Conquest Webpage (yes, it’s a real thing), the WSU post on the middle ages, Discover France’s page on Normandy, and Word IQ’s page on Middle French.

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