Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Language of Confusion: Drugged

First of all, did you all have a nice Leap Year? Something about the day being shoved in there once every four years amuses me. Anyway. That’s not what you came for.

Everyone knows what drugs are. Whether medicinal or otherwise, they’re chemical substances ingested by the body. Usually, this word has a negative connotation. “Drug” is something illegal, while “meds” or “pills” means the kind of stuff you’re supposed to have (with a prescription, of course). But it’s only in recent years that drug has come to mean the bad stuff.

The word drug showed up in the late fourteenth century with the same basic meaning as we know today. It comes from droge, an Old French (ninth to thirteenth centuries) word for provision. It gets a little hazy there, but Middle Low German (twelfth to fourteenth century) has droge waere, which means dry wares. Old French may have picked it up during the period the two languages coexisted, and then it continued to evolve when French moved into the Middle period.

So the word started as dried provisions, then just provisions, then when English was forming, it was appropriated to mean medicines.

Overall, not a unique story. Definitions are constantly evolving.

Hm, evolve is an interesting word…(and the process begins again)

Online Etymology Dictionary


  1. Strange how the word changed over time!

    I see you've changed the layout... or did Blogger do that all by itself?

    1. That was me. Just trying something new...I haven't decided whether or not I like it, though.

  2. Interesting, and funny how slang use can change the meaning of things.

  3. One thing that annoys me about American English (or slang, perhaps I should say) is how people will say "and I drug it inside", as in "dragged it inside" ;)

    1. That drives me crazy too. I've never actually heard it used, thankfully. There are tons of other words that have alternate versions, like dreamed/dreamt or pleaded/pled. I find both of those less annoying than that "drug" though.

  4. As we change, the meanings of our words change...

    I read a book on the calendar a while ago, and it had an interesting tidbit on leap days. In Roman times, the leap day was actually inserted between the 24th and 25th day of February. The idea just makes my head spin.


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