Thursday, April 30, 2015

A-to-Z Challenge: Z

This is it! Last day! We get through zoom and we’re out of here!

Zoom actually has a specific year that it showed up: 1886. It’s what’s known as an “echoic” word, which is basically when a word is made from the onomatopoeia of something, I guess in this case quickly closing in on something. Maybe? It’s not clear. It actually gained popularity because the first aviators used it (I guess if anyone zooms around it’s one of them). It wasn’t until 1936 that the zoom lens was invented, taking its name from what the aviators did.

And that’s it! I’m out! Later!


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

A-to-Z Challenge: Y

Today’s word is yearn, because by now I’m yearning for the end of this month.

Yearn comes from the Old English giernan/geornan/giorna, to strive, be eager, beg, demand, things like that. It comes from the Proto Germanic gernjan, to desire, and Proto Indo European gher-, to like/want. Apparently it’s related to the word “hortatory”, which is encouraging someone, not a place to keep whores, and also the second word in as many days that I’ve never heard of. Anyone got any sentences for that one?


Tony Jebson’s page on the Origins of Old English

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

A-to-Z Challenge: X

X is the hardest letter to come up with a word for, which is why I think we should make it the “ch” sound. This challenge would be a lot easier, then. So what did I come up with for this year?

X. That’s it. The letter X. I literally started planning this a year ago so my recurring Secret Origins series would have the letter X fall in April. All for the Challenge. Or Xallenge.

Anyone? Anyone at all?

Oh, nuts to you guys.

The alphabet gif I always refer to doesn’t have much for X. Etruscan, the language we got our alphabet from, has kind of a Y with an extra line in the middle that they used for the “ks” sound, and then before that there’s the Greek chi, which is just an X. It’s not that surprising that the history of X ends with Greek, who used it for a hard kh sound. Now, the Greeks got the alphabet from the Phoenicians, who didn’t have an X (they did have a similar symbol in their history, but it was what turned into our T). So basically, X was invented by the Greeks because they liked to use different consonants for different vowel sounds.


Monday, April 27, 2015

A-to-Z Challenge: W

We’re in the home stretch now! I’m suddenly feeling revitalized! So here’s wilt!

Wilt is fairly recent in that it showed up in the late seventeenth century. Amusingly enough, it comes from another English word that we don’t have anymore, welk. No, not whelk. This welk meant wilt, so I’m pretty sure. Anyway, welk comes from the Middle Dutch/Middle Low German word welkan, which is to wither and likely related to the Old High German irwelhen, become soft. Before that we’re back to Proto Germanic, where it’s welk again (fluctuating levels of complication; that’s language for you), and even earlier, it’s the Proto Indo European welg, which means wet (no, no idea how/why that switched). There’s also another word in English that comes from welg: welkin, meaning sky, which I never heard of before. Awesome points to anyone who can use that in a sentence and not sound ridiculous.


Saturday, April 25, 2015

A-to-Z Challenge: V

And now, because I’m feeling cheery, void.

Void first showed up in the early fourteenth century meaning vacant or to clear something away. It wasn’t until the early seventeenth century that it just meant unoccupied space in general, and the vacuum of space until a century after that. Anyway, void comes from the Anglo French/Old French voide/viude, empty, vast, or uncultivated. It comes from the classical Latin vocivos, empty, and vacuus, emptiness or void. And where vacuum comes from, of course.

Void: vacuum, but shorter and with a different consonant at the end.


Friday, April 24, 2015

A-to-Z Challenge: U

Today’s word: utility.

Utility first showed up in the late fourteenth century, meaning “fact of being useful”. It comes from the Old French utilite, usefulness, and classical Latin utilitatem, which has varied meanings, like useful and beneficial. Utilitatem comes from utilis, useful, and uti, use. And I mean it super comes from use because the word use comes from uti, too.

TL;DR: Utilities are useful things.


Thursday, April 23, 2015

A-to-Z Challenge: T

Time and tide wait for no man.

Time. I’m trying to say that today’s word is time.

Time comes from the Old English tima, which meant, no fooling, limited space of time. It wasn’t until later that it meant a continuous amount of time, can you believe it? It comes from the Proto Germanic timon, time, and Proto Indo European di-mon-, a form of the word da, which is also the ancestor of tide.

Wait, WHAT?

Tony Jebson’s page on the Origins of Old English

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A-to-Z Challenge: S

Safe! No clever things to add!

Safe first showed up in the early fourteenth century, from the Old French sauf and classical Latin salvus, saved. Though it looks it, salvus is not related to salve, but rather salus, safety, which also gave us salute and solid, weirdly enough. Salvus/salus can also be traced back to Proto Indo European, where it’s solwos, from sol, or whole. And something that’s whole is safe. Usually. I mean, something that isn’t whole can still be safe. But it’s better to be whole, right?


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A-to-Z Challenge: R

Today’s word is roast, and I have got to stop coming up with things related to food because I’m making myself hungry.

Roast showed up in the late thirteenth century, meaning to cook by dry heat. It comes from the Old French rostir, roast or burn, and Frankish hraustjan, cook on a grate or gridiron (so, kind of like grilling). What I think is absolutely hilarious is that it’s related to the word roster—really! Because we get roster from the Dutch word rooster, which means grid, not a chicken (rooster the bird isn’t related to roast…probably), and a roster is a grid of words making a list. Rooster comes from the Middle Dutch roosten, to roast. So because we cooked on a metal grid, we have roster and roast.


Monday, April 20, 2015

A-to-Z Challenge: Q

I chose quaint for today’s word because it’s just always seemed weird to me.

Quaint showed up in the early thirteenth century (how quaint), coming from the Old French cointe, meaning knowledgeable, elegant, or arrogant (-_-). That comes from the classical Latin cognitus, which you might recognize as the origin for cognizance. Cognoscere is a mix of two words, the prefix com- (together) and gnoscere, to know (and gave us words like notice and notify...but not note). Anyway, when it first showed up, quaint meant something similar to its Old French counterpart. But a century later, it started meaning elaborate or skillfully made, and then a century after that, strange and clever. It wasn’t until the end of the eighteenth century that it meant what we currently use it as. Not that we use it much.

And I was certainly right about it being weird.


Saturday, April 18, 2015

A-to-Z Challenge: P

Today’s word is plant because I wanted to etymologize it a long time ago and there wasn’t enough for one of my regular etymology posts. Perfect for here, though.

There are lots of plants. Green plants. Power plants. It’s also a word for burying or establishing or setting something somewhere or a million other synonyms. Plant—the kind that grows outside (or the act of putting something in the ground)—comes from the Old English plante, which was what they used for freshly planted herbs or young trees/shrubs. It comes from the classical Latin planta, which means (shockingly enough) plant. That word is also another word for sole, as in the sole of your foot, which means that plant may have its name because we walk on them with the soles of our feet and OMG that’s why, isn’t it?

Tony Jebson’s page on the Origins of Old English

Friday, April 17, 2015

A-to-Z Challenge: O

A-to-Z Challenge! Open! Because!

Open comes from the Old English open, which meant…not closed. Okay, they’re not even trying. Anyway, it comes from the Proto Germanic upana, put or set up, and Proto Indo European upo, over or up from under. If you think that word looks like up, it’s because it’s the origin of up, as well as the prefix sub-, which is used to indicate under.

So it goes from over to set up to not closed. Man, etymology is usually vague, but even I can’t see the thought process behind this one.

Tony Jebson’s page on the Origins of Old English

Thursday, April 16, 2015

A-to-Z Challenge: N

Number! Because number. Running out of things to say here. Lasted longer than last year, though.

Number showed up in the early fourteenth century, from the Old French nombre and the classical Latin numerous, both of which are just number. What really amused me is that numerus comes from the Proto Indo European root nem, which means distribute or allot. Makes sense, of course, but nem is also the origin for the word for nemesis because “distribution” refers to distributing what is due, i.e. vengeance.

It couldn’t be more perfect, because who hasn’t felt that at some time, numbers are all out to get you? Especially math. If there’s anything truly evil, it’s definitely math.


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A-to-Z Challenge: M

Halfway done. Just keep telling yourself that. Halfway done.

Anyway, merit.

Merit showed up in the early thirteenth century meaning, and I’m totally serious, spiritual credit, then, a century later, spiritual award. It comes from the Old French merite, which had meanings from wages to thanks to divine pity (I could not make this up). Before that itwas the classical Latin  meritum, which is just a merit, a service or kindness. It can be traced even further back to the Proto Indo European, (s)mer, assign.

So basically, a merit is afterlife points. I assume when you get enough, you can trade them in for a pencil case or something.


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

A-to-Z Challenge: L

Today I’m looking at loiter, because…well, I don’t really need to justify it. It’s my blog. I don’t know why I feel the need to.


Loiter showed up in the early fifteenth century with basically the same meaning, coming from the Middle Dutch loteren, erratic or to shake like a sail in a storm. It’s probably related to the Old English word lutian, which means lurk (although for the record is not related to our word lurk), as well as the word loddere, beggar...makes sense, as people are never at their  kindest when referring to the homeless.

An interesting backstory, isn’t it?

Tony Jebson’s page on the Origins of Old English

Monday, April 13, 2015

A-to-Z Challenge: K

Today’s word is keep because it’s the first word I could think of that started with K.

Keep comes from the Old English word cepan, which meant seize, hold…or observe. Hm. Anyway, before that, it was the Proto Germanic kopijan and then, while there are a few maybes, there’s nothing for sure. That observe definition means it might be related to the Old English capian, to look, and from observe we got “keep an eye on” and then just keep. It’s an interesting theory, for sure, and certainly crazy enough to be true!

Tony Jebson’s page on the Origins of Old English

Saturday, April 11, 2015

A-to-Z Challenge: J

Today we’re looking at journey, and there’s more crazy letter switching!

Journey showed up in the early thirteenth century with pretty much the same meaning, coming from the Old French journee. Before that, in Vulgar Latin, it was actually diurnum, day, and in classical Latin, it’s diurnus, daily or daylong. Yes, that’s a d-to-j switch we’re talking about. I can’t explain the switch, but the reason journey is what we know it as is because of Middle English. Their word for journey meant a day, which got stretched to a day’s work, and then a day’s walk. From there, it morphed into what we know it as today.

Crazy, right? Oh, and if you want another j word that comes from diurnus, we have journal. That one makes more sense. Slightly.


Friday, April 10, 2015

A-to-Z Challenge: I

Today’s word is idle, something I never am.

Did you believe that? Because I didn’t.

Idle comes from the Old English idel, empty, vain, or worthless. It’s West Germanic in origin, although there’s not much info on it, certainly not where it came from before that. I guess the word should have gotten out and made a name for itself.

Is that it? Huh, that’s it. Later, everybody!

Tony Jebson’s page on the Origins of Old English

Thursday, April 9, 2015

A-to-Z Challenge: H

Today I’ve gone with hearth, a word I’ve always hated because I think it should be pronounced like earth with an h in front not heart with a th on the end.

I get mad about weird things.

Hearth comes from the Old English heor├░ (the ├░ just means th), with the same meaning. It comes from the West Germanic hertho, burning place (don’t-make-joke-don’t-make-joke) and the Proto Indo European kerta, which comes from ker, meaning heat or fire. That ker gave us carbon of all words. I can’t even begin to explain what’s weird about that. But seriously? K to H? I’ve come across tons of letter switches, but that definitely makes the least amount of sense (and that includes the s/r thing from glare/glass).

Tony Jebson’s page on the Origins of Old English

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

A-to-Z Challenge: G

Today’s etymology (and hey, we made it through a week!) is glare, and as usual, I was entirely too amused by it.

Glare showed up in the late thirteenth century meaning shine brightly. It’s related to or descended from the Middle Low German glaren, to gleam, and get this, it’s related to glass. I’m not making that up. There’s a thing in linguistics called rhotacization where people pronounce the s/z sound as r, so glaren actually came from the Proto Germanic glasem, the word for glass. You can go even further back to Proto Indo European, where it’s ghel, which also gave us gold and yellow.

TL;DR: Glass gleams which is why glass is glass and gleam is gleam.


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

A-to-Z Challenge: F

Today’s word is float, and man, now I really want a root beer float.

Float comes from the Old English flotian, to rest on the surface of water. Before that, it was the Proto Germanic flotan (to float, of course) and Proto Indo European pleud, which means flow. Don’t think that letter change is weird. A lot of p words changed to f, like flea and foul.
Oh, and apparently there were a bunch of other related words in Old English, like flota, which meant fleet (for the record, yes, it did give us fleet) and flot, a body of water. They were consolidated into float, or just lost to the ages.

I seriously can’t stop thinking about root beer floats. Man, what am I going to do? Oh, wait! I’m an adult! I’m going to the grocery store to buy root beer and ice cream, suckers!

Tony Jebson’s page on the Origins of Old English

Monday, April 6, 2015

A-to-Z Challenge: E

Today’s word is my only friend, the end. Or any writer’s only friend, really.

End comes from the Old English ende, which bizarrely enough meant end. Before that, it was the Proto Germanic andja, which originally meant the opposite side, and even further back in Proto Indo European it’s antjo, which means end, but more in a boundary sense. In Proto Indo European, the word ant means before or opposite, and it’s where we get ante from. Originally, end just meant the limits of something, like the ends of the Earth (the only way it’s still used according to its original meaning).

So let this be a lesson to you: a person isn’t using a word wrong. They’re ahead of their time.

Tony Jebson’s page on the Origins of Old English

Saturday, April 4, 2015

A-to-Z Challenge: D

This word is going to be discombobulate, which Dianne wondered about a while back and which I couldn’t think of a better place to put.

This word showed up in 1834—yes, a specific year, and relatively recent to boot. And unlike most words, it’s pure American English. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, which I’m going to quote verbatim because of how hilarious it is, it’s “fanciful coinage of a type popular then”. Basically, people liked making up crazy, meaningless, fun to say words in the nineteenth century. In fact, discombobulate was originally discombobricate, not making this up, check the etymology page yourself.

This might be the best origin I’ve come across. Not to mention the most succinct.


Friday, April 3, 2015

A-to-Z Challenge: C

Today’s word: card. Oh, what a card.

Ow. Ow, that physically hurt me.

Card can mean either like playing cards or the completely unrelated comb wool. The former actually showed up first in the early fourteenth century, coming from the Middle French carte and classical Latin charta. Like many Roman things, it was taken from the Greek, in this case the word khartes, which means maps and probably derived from Egyptian. Interesting fact, “to card” once used to mean to play cards, like they didn’t need the extra verb in there. Tell me that’s not hilarious?

Anyway, the other card, which showed up decades later in the late fourteenth century, comes from the Old French carder (verb) and carde (noun), which had pretty much the same meaning. Before that, it was the Old Occitan cardar, which can be traced to the Vulgar Latin caritare and classical Latin carrere, to comb with a card, meaning it’s not related to the other card at all.


Thursday, April 2, 2015

A-to-Z Challenge: B

Day 2! Still excited?

Today’s word is brush. Am I choosing words to etymologize based on what I see around the house? Why would you think something like that?

Brush has a bunch of meanings. The kind of brush you use on the floor or your hair, to move quickly (brush past), or bushes and shrubs. So where do they all come from?

The first to appear was the word for greenery, and that’s basically where the other words come from. It showed up in the early fourteenth century, with the sweeping brush coming later on in the century (and the verb of that coming almost a century later), and the move quickly brush not showing up until the late seventeenth century.

It’s actually not a hundred percent that they are related. Green brush comes from the Anglo French bruce (same meaning), Old NorthFrench broche, and Old French broce, and all of those come from the Gallo Roman brocia. Before that, it might come from the Gallo Roman word brucus, which means heather, or the same place as the sweeper brush. That word comes from the Old French broisse. Before that…well, it was either the Vulgar Latin bruscia (a bunch of shoots used to sweep away dust) or the Proto Germanic bruskaz, underbrush. Hm, it could really be either one.

Last we have the quickly walking brush. Now, while it appeared in the late seventeenth century, but there was a version of the word (meaning to rush) in the early fourteenth century, too. It’s thought that it comes from the idea of a horse (seriously) passing through dense woods. It comes from the Old French brosser, travel through woods, and the Middle English brush, an onslaught. Not that it isn’t related to the other brushes at all, but it’s more like a third cousin or something.


Wednesday, April 1, 2015

A-to-Z Challenge: A

Whee! A solid month of not having to think up new posts etymology! I couldn’t be more excited. Well, I could, like if I sold a book or something. But barring that, yeah, this is pretty tops.

Today’s word: aim.

Aim first showed up in the early fourteenth century, with the verb form coming just before the noun. It comes from the Old French aesmer, rate or estimate, and the classical Latin aestimare, appraise. And if you’re thinking, “Boy, that word sure looks like estimate”, that’s because it is the origin word for estimate (and esteem, for that matter).

One word down. And the adventure begins!