So we’ve done slitheries and creepy crawlies. Now it’s time
for the tiniest killer of all: disease.
Disease is pretty easy since it’s just dis- + ease. It
showed up in the early fourteenth century meaning discomfort or inconvenience rather than an illness (although an illness
certainly is a discomfort and an inconvenience) before taking on its modern
meaning at the end of the century. It comes from the Old Frenchdesaise, which had meanings from
discomfort to misfortune to disease. The prefix dis- means lack of or not,
and ease is…well, come on, you know this.
Makes sense, right? A lack of ease certainly sounds like what a disease does to
Sick comes from the Old Englishseoc, which is pretty much just sick,
and before that, the Proto Germanicseukaz. As to where it came from or
when exactly it showed up…yeah, no one knows. You should be expecting that by
Flu showed up in 1893 as a short form of influenza, which showed up earlier in 1743.
It actually comes from Italian, where it’s also influenza and can mean the disease or, seriously, influence.
Apparently in Italian, a disease is considered an influence of some higher
power. So the flu is the flu because of superstitions. Of course.
Fever comes from the Old English fefor/fefer, fever.
Before that, it was the classical Latinfebris, fever,
which is related to fovere, to heat.
It’s possibly related to the Proto Indo Europeandhegh, burn, and possibly even the
Sanskrit bhur, to be restless. Which
is interesting, if it’s true, and raises a lot of questions as to where that F
sound came from.
Plague showed up in the late fourteenth century as plage, which meant calamity or
scourge before settling into its current epidemic definition. It comes from the
Old French plage and Late Latin /classical Latin plaga, wound or stroke. It’s probably related to plangere, to lament by beating your breast (I could not make this
stuff up) and the Greek plaga, blow (like a hit or strike), which can be
traced all the way back to the Proto Indo European plak-, to strike or hit. So plagues strike figuratively, so we use
the word for striking literally. All right. Moving on.
Pestilence first showed up in the early fourteenth century,
coming from the Old French pestilence,
which was a plague, and classical Latin pestilentia,
also plague. Pestilentia
comes from pestilentem, infected or noxious, and pestis, which means…pest.
So pestilence is a pest.
This book was just amazing. I actually didn’t first read it when it was a book but online when it was just a series of posts the author made. It was so popular that he had a Kickstarter and raised enough money to not only e-publish it but also to print physical copies of the book. And I’m not surprised because it’s really an excellent read.
The writing is good (that 10 was not given out lightly), very deep and easy to get lost in. The story is the narrator piecing together strange events from his childhood that he assumed were unrelated at the time, but looking back on it as an adult, he can only conclude that someone was stalking him. Their motives are unknown but as the book goes on, it’s obvious that whatever the stalker wants, it isn’t good.
The book isn’t very long, but thoroughly enjoyable. Everything about it feels realistic and natural, which of course enhances the terror. Unfortunately, it’s a bit limited by being in a first person-limited point of view. The characterizations of the other people could have been more fleshed out, like the narrator’s mother and a few other adults. It’s not really detrimental to the story as a whole or anything, just a minor issue. Overall, if you like non-paranormal horror, yes, get this now.
This might be the scariest thing I’ve posted yet. It happened just last week, while I was trying to make a comic.
Did you know that not all programs automatically save copies of what you’re doing, so if you forget to save and something happens it’s just gone? And that sometimes computers just shut down because they’ve downloaded updates and need to restart even though they haven’t told you that they’re going to and given you warning to save what you’re working on? Did you know I F$@&*#G HATE WINDOWS?
So we’ve had eight-legged bugs and six-legged. Now it’s time for the ones that annoy you from the air.
Fly comes from the Old Englishfleoge, which could mean any winged insect before that one specific insect, and before that it was the Proto Germanicfleugon, flying insect. Of course it’s related to the verb fly, which was fleogan in Old English and fleugan in Proto Germanic—so only different by a couple of letters in both versions. To fly can be traced even further back to the Proto Indo Europeanpleuk/pleu, flow or float. Um, I guess it’s good that we don’t call them plies then. And as for butterfly, it’s just a combination of the words butter and fly. There’s no real reason for it, although the theories are that it was either due to an old belief that butterflies ate butter that was left out or because many butterflies have pale yellow wings.
Bee comes from the Old English beo and Proto Germanic bion, both of which are just bee. Bumblebee is a little different. It showed up in the early sixteenth century, replacing the Middle Englishhumbul-be, probably because of the influence of the word bombeln, which meant boom or buzz. That word is an echoic word (as in onomatopoeia) from the Proto Indo European echoic word kem, which means hum. So basically bumblebees are buzzing/humming bees.
And now, for the most evil of all insects, the wasp. Wasp comes from the Old English waeps/waesp, which comes from the Proto Germanic wabis, although the p was probably influenced by the classical Latin vespa. Either way, the word traces back to the Proto Indo European wopsa/wospa (I guess they really couldn’t decide), which means wasp. So wasps have had their name for a long time. I’m guessing because people really needed a way to label those little buggers.
Mosquito, a word I’m always impressed that I can spell on the first try, showed up in the late sixteenth century, coming from, well, Spanish. I know. It’s weird when it’s not Latin or German. Actually, before that English had another word for the bug: midge, which I think I’ve heard before but totally never connected to mosquito. Midge comes from the Old English mygg/mycg and Proto Germanic mugjon, while mosquito comes from the classical Latinmusca, fly, and Proto Indo European mu-, also fly. No idea why we switched words like that. I guess we liked the Spanish way better.
Finally today, gnat, a word which for some reason has a G at the beginning. It comes from the Old English gnaet (gnat of course) and the Proto Germanic gnattaz. That word is thought to be related to ghen-, the word for gnaw, making the word “biting insect”. At least, maybe. Sometimes etymology is one big if.
Several months ago on Tumblr (wait! Don’t leave! It’s good, I swear) I stumbled across a blog called Sixpenceee (the extra E’s are silent) that is absolutely filled with scary goodness. Her posts range from scary stories to weird events to random science facts. Being that this is October, we’re going to stick with the scary stories, but there’s a link to all the different subjects she covers over in her sidebar.
The scary stories she posts are (mostly) written by other people and range from mediocre to downright frightening—she’s actually also holding a short story contest this month and you can take a look at the entries on her forum. Anyway, I’ve tracked down the ones that I think are the best, as well as several others that have been highly recommended:
Okay, I guess that’s enough. I actually had to trim this back a bit because I just wanted to link to all of them if you like scary things, I suggest you try them. And definitely check out the Short Stories link because there’s a lot more where that came from. Just clear a few days off your schedule first as you won’t be sleeping.
And now the conclusion of our look into the etymology of things that creep me out. This week: eight legged monstrosities.
Spider first showed up in the late fourteenth century with the much cooler spelling of spydyr, and earlier on it had some other (equally cool) spellings: spiÞre, siÞur, and spiÞer. That symbol is thorn, which is the old symbol for th, which means spider used to be spither. Earlier, it was the Old Englishspiðra, and that symbol is another th one, making this word spithra. It comes from the Proto Germanicspin-thron, which literally means “the spinner”, and yes, is related to spin. Actually, calling them spiders wasn’t common in Old English. They were called loppe /lobbe (which was more specifically a silkworm), and atorcoppe. Atorcoppe literally means “poison-head”, and although the word is never used anymore, a vestige of coppe remains in cobweb.
Tarantula showed up in the mid sixteenth century, literally meaning “wolf spider” because plain old spider wasn’t enough. It actually comes from the Medieval Latintarantula which comes from…the Italian tarantola? Seriously? Huh, apparently they were named after the Italian city of Taranto because they were common there. And hey, guess what place I will never, ever be visiting?
I’m sure most of you know of the constellation Scorpio, which one of the zodiac signs comes from. But scorpion like the bug showed up in the early thirteenth century, from the Old Frenchscorpion, classical Latinscorpionem/scorpius, both of which just mean scorpion. Latin took it from Greek, where it was skorpios (because Greek words have to have Ks in them), which actually can be traced to the Proto Indo Europeansker-, to cut, the origin word for shear, like you would wool. Apparently ancient Greek scorpions didn’t just sting people, they sliced them up ; ).
Ew, ticks. The word for the little bloodsuckers comes from the Old English ticia and West Germanictik. And before that…??? It’s another no one knows, although it’s definitely not related to any other form of tick (like to tick someone off or tick-tock like a clock). One possibility is that it comes from the Proto Indo European deigh, which means insect. So we have the origins of like ten words for spider, but no one knows where tick comes from? Words are really dumb sometimes.
Well, I watched the first season of American Horror Story. Not my idea, I assure you. I honestly would not have finished it except I don’t like to criticize something I haven’t completely watched. But now I have and I never, ever have to watch it again.
Okay, recap: the first season is about a family moving across country after the wife’s miscarriage and husband’s affair. They move into a house that’s way underpriced because the previous owners died in a murder suicide. Obviously the place is filled with violent ghosts and…I guess that’s supposed to be scary? I don’t know. I never found it to be. Granted, these ghosts can actually hurt people and then disappear so they’re actually a threat. But honestly, I thought the show spent too much time confusing gore and shock value (and rape; lets not forget rape) with horror. Probably the only thing they did right was the accurate portrayal of an abusive parental relationship. I guess that was certainly horrifying.
The characters are, for the most part, as dull as dirt, with no characteristics besides “Wife and mother” or “rebellious teenage daughter”, to the point where after watching thirteen episodes I can’t even remember their names. It doesn’t help matters that the overall story is completely incoherent. Things are thrown at you with no explanation and you’re expected to remember them if they’re finally brought up again—which is definitely an if as there are several things that are just there to be weird (or gratuitously sexy) and then…that’s it. There’s no reason for it. Take the sleepwalking that seems to afflict the men of the house. It’s mentioned two or three times, but there’s no explanation as to why it happens, why it only affects some men, and why it happens once or twice and then never again. And even if something is explained, it might seem really half-assed, like the writers couldn’t think of something good so they just went with the first idea that popped into someone’s head. Case in point, the reason they cobbled together as to why the house is haunted. Really, sometimes there’s nothing wrong with there not being an explanation. In fact, the not-knowing can be part of the horror. But they came up with this nonsense and it’s not scary or satisfying and that’s basically the entire series in a nutshell.
If you enjoy it…well, go ahead. I didn’t. Except for Jessica Lange, who is both the best actor of the bunch and the only well defined character. Seriously, I would watch an entire show of just her and I can see why they’ve brought her back for every subsequent season.
Bonus Review: Fear the Walking Dead
Yeah, I watched this one, too. The Walking Dead is a show I could generally take or leave. I enjoy it when I watch it and the good points outweigh the bad ones (unlike the above). This sequel series however...not so much. It fails at literally everything the primary show succeeds at.
It is so, so boring. Like, ridiculously so. Six episodes in and I was still waiting for something to happen, and when it finally did, I found it underwhelming to say the least. I didn’t care about any of the characters except for Daniel, the Latino barber who was trying to keep his wife and daughter safe. They really should have made them the focus of the show. It might have been watchable.
Bugs are scary. Well, gross. I don’t like them in my house. And they always seem to be in my house. And there are so many of them, that I needed two parts to do this. First up, six-legged creepy crawlies.
Ant first showed up in the early sixteenth century, coming from the Middle Englishampte and Old Englishaemette, and before that, the West Germanicamaitjo. Apparently that’s a mix of two other word parts, ai (off) and mai (cut), so an ant was “cut off” or, to make more sense, “biter off”. That mai actually comes from the Proto Indo European word mai, to cut, the origin word for maim. Basically, ant = biter. Or maimer.
Flea comes from the Old English flea, which means flea (stop me if I’m going too fast for you). Before that, it was the Proto Germanicflauhaz, which likely derives from the Proto Indo European plou, also meaning flea. And have you ever heard of the color puce? Well, it turns out, that it also comes from plou, apparently because it was the color of fleas. Oh, and flea isn’t related to flee. Probably.
There’s two kinds of cricket, the bug and the English game. Are they related? Probably not. Yeah, I’ve been using “probably” a lot in this post. Sometimes words are really hard to figure out, especially nouns. Cricket the bug showed up first in the early fourteenth century, with the game showing up in the late sixteenth century. Both come from an OldFrench word, criquet, but one version of criquet means a cricket and the other means a goal post or stick. And apparently they aren’t related since the latter comes from a Middle Dutch/Flemish word, cricke, while the former is what’s known as “echoic”. Basically, they thought the noise crickets made sounded like “criquet” so they named the bug criquet.
Cockroach showed up in the early sixteenth century (shortening it to just roach didn’t happen until two centuries later). It actually comes from Spanish, believe it or not, where the word is cucaracha. Cuca is actually a kind of caterpillar, although for some reason I can’t imagine people think it means poop.
Termite showed up in 1849. Well, really it showed up in 1781, but people only used the plural form. Which I guess makes sense. It’s not like you ever see just one. Anyway, it comes from the Modern Latin termites, which is just termites, which is derived from the Late Latintermes and classical Latintarmes, which means wood worm. Hm, nothing super amusing about that one.
You know how every year when summer rolls around I complain that my house is filled with ants again no matter how much I clean? Well, they’re not the only gross disgusting thing that reappears every year. In fact, I’ve actually mentioned how these gigantic spiders keep appearing on my house...
I swear, that’s really how large they are. Or at least how large they seem.
It’s October! Yay! Time to think up some scary things to
etymologize! First up: snakes. Although I’m not scared of them, I know people
who are, and supposedly they are one of the things that humans are
instinctually afraid of. So let’s see where their names come from!
Snake comes from the Old Englishsnaca and before that the Proto Germanicsnakon, which can be traced back to the
Proto Indo European word sneg, which means to crawl or a thing
that creeps along. The word serpent was also used as a name for the wormy
reptiles, and it showed up in the early fourteenth century.
It comes from the Old Frenchserpent/sarpent and classical Latinserpentem,
which just means snake but also has a verb form, serpere, that means to creep.
Serpere can also be traced back to a Proto Indo European word, serp, which means to crawl or creep. So
because Proto Indo European had two words for crawl, we now have two words
meaning snake. Sure.
And now for actual types of snakes. Cobra showed up in 1802—an actual
year! But before that it was the phrase cobra
capello, which showed up in the late seventeenth century and comes
from the Portuguese cobra de capelo, which
literally means hooded snake.
Cobra can also be traced to the classical Latin colubra, which means…snake.
So because it kind of looked like it had a hood, it was a hooded snake. I guess
this means that a “cobra snake” is just a snake snake.
Python showed up in the late sixteenth century,
although it wasn’t used as a name for a class of snakes until the early
nineteenth century. The word came to us by way of Latin, but it was taken from
a Greek myth where the god Apollo killed a serpent named Python.
I guess they needed a new snake name and just thought python sounded cool.
Viper first showed up in the early fifteenth century,
coming from the Middle Frenchvipere and classical Latin vipera, yet another word for snake.
Vipera is actually a contraction of vivipera,
a combination of the words vivus (living)
and parere (to bear). It’s
basically a reference to how some snakes in cooler climates don’t lay eggs but
keep them inside the mother’s body so they’re kind of born live rather than
hatch later. Most (but not all!)
kinds of vipers give birth like that so the name is fairly appropriate.