Saturday, April 30, 2016

A-to-Z Challenge: Z

It’s the last day! We did it!

For the final word, we’re looking at zoo. Just zoo showed up in 1847 as a short way of saying the Zoological Gardens of London. Zoology is an older word, showing up in the mid seventeenth century meaning animal science and coming from the Latin zoologia, which is just the same thing. They used the Greek words zoo, animal, and -logia, discourse/theory. Zoo can be traced even further back to the Proto Indo European gwei, to live or life and actually the origin word for the prefix bio- too.

And that’s it! End of the alphabet! Woo! Go take a break before your fingers fall off!


Friday, April 29, 2016

A-to-Z Challenge: Y

We’re almost done! Today we’re looking at youth. Don’t you miss that? I know I do.


Youth comes from the Old English geoguÞ, which means young people/warriors) or childhood and is pronounced “jeoguth”. It’s also related to geong, young, which comes from the Proto Germanic jugunthi-, a combination of the Proto Indo European yeu (vigor) and the Proto Germanic suffix -itho, which was a suffix that was put onto nouns like depth and strength.

So, how did it get from a word that begins with a Y to a word that begins with a J to a G and back to a Y? Well, the reason for Y to J is lost to history (it might have to do with the fact that J used to be pronounced like a Y but I’m not sure), and J and the G somewhat make the same sound so that explains that. But we do know what happened to get it from G back to Y. Back in the middle ages, youth began with a Yogh, which had the symbol Ȝ and was pronounced like a combination of Y and G. Then English dropped Yogh as a letter and youth needed something in order to spell it, so they went with Y. Which means that it went all the way back around to the letter it originally started with.

Tony Jebson’s page on the Origins of Old English

Thursday, April 28, 2016

A-to-Z Challenge: X

Well, it’s the hardest day of the challenge. X is always a tough letter, and I used up my brilliant plan of looking at the origins of the letter last year. So what did I pick?

Xerox! Yes, it’s a proper name, but there’s actually more to it than that. Xerox was trademarked in 1952, but the name came from the word xerography. That word showed up in 1948—yes, that recently. The word for photocopying paper was a mix of the word photography and the Greek word xeros, which means dry. Apparently, because Xeroxing was a form of copying without using liquid, the inventors decided to tack on the word dry to it. But in Greek because that’s fancier.


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

A-to-Z Challenge: W

Introduction, lame segue, wise.

Wise comes from the Old English wis, wise—at least as an adjective. Further back, it’s the Proto Germanic wissaz and Proto Indo European weid, to see. That word happens to be the origin word for vision, by the way. So someone who was wise was someone who could “see”.

But, like I said, that’s just the adjective. Not that the other forms aren’t related, it’s just that they have a slightly different history. There’s both a noun and a verb of wise, although I haven’t really heard either one used in a sentence. The noun means a manner of proceeding and it comes from the Old English wise. Before that, it’s the Proto Germanic wison, which means appearance or manner and is related to wissaz. And finally, there’s the verb, which comes from wisean, just another version of wis.

Wisdom: the ability to see ahead. I guess.

Tony Jebson’s page on the Origins of Old English

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

A-to-Z Challenge: V

We can see the end now. And in that vein, view.

View showed up in the earlyfifteenth century meaning a formal inspection of land, not taking on the current meaning until the mid fifteenth century. It comes from the Anglo French vewe, view, and Old French veue, which can mean brightness, appearance, or vision and is from the verb veoir, to see. The French took their word from the classical Latin videre, to see. So while it always had something to do with sight, it’s taken on some pretty weird subsets over the years.


Monday, April 25, 2016

A-to-Z Challenge: U

We’re in the downward swing of things now. Hanging in there?

Anyway, we’re looking at urge. It showed up in the mid to late sixteenth century, coming from the classical Latin urgere, which just means urge. It can be traced all the way back to the Proto Indo European wreg-, push or shove. Not much change there.

Hey, the etymology actually makes sense! How about that.


Saturday, April 23, 2016

A-to-Z Challenge: T

Just over a week left, right? Anyway, today is thrive.

We know that thrive showed up in the early thirteenth century from some Scandinavian source, but not exactly where. Possibly it’s from the Old Norse Þrifask/Þrifa, which means clutch or take hold of. Which…doesn’t really sound like thrive. Oh, and for those just tuning in, Þ is thorn, an old letter for the th sound. Why’d we get rid of it? Isn’t it so much easier for a sound to have its own letter?


Friday, April 22, 2016

A-to-Z Challenge: S

Today, we’re looking at the word step.

Step as a verb comes from the Old English steppan/staeppan, while the noun comes from steppa/staepe/stepe, where it meant a stair or stepping. So, pretty much what it’s like today. It comes from the West Germanic stap-, tread and the Proto Indo European stebh, which could mean stem, post, or to support—and is the origin word for staff. Words are weird, right?

I say that a lot. Well, it’s never not been true.

Tony Jebson’s page on the Origins of Old English

Thursday, April 21, 2016

A-to-Z Challenge: R

What are we up to? Day 20? It seems like a lot longer.

Anyway, role. That’s what we’re doing.

Role showed up in the early seventeenth century, relatively recent in etymology terms. It comes from the French rôle, which means…role. Apparently the line of thinking was that a role was a part someone played in life and was inspired by the fact that an actor’s part would be written on a roll of paper.

Seriously. Role comes from roll. Because of plays. Why’d they even change the spelling?


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

A-to-Z Challenge: Q

Today’s word is quiet, because sometimes you just want things quiet.

Quiet showed up in the early fourteenth century as a noun and the late fourteenth century as an adjective and a verb. It comes from the Old French quiete/quiet, rest or tranquility, and classical Latin quies, rest and its verb form quietare, which means lull or make quiet. It can be traced even further back to the Proto Indo European kweie, to rest or be quiet, and the origin word for while. Not making that up. Quiet and while are (distantly) related.

University of Texas at San Antonio’s page on Proto Indo European language

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

A-to-Z Challenge: P

And now for a word that should be all too familiar to all the writers: plot.

Plot comes from the Old English plot as a noun meaning a plot of land. From that sense, it morphed into map or chart, like you would plot out land. But then there’s the other definitions, which is where things get weird.

Plot in the sense of plan or scheme does come from plot, but it was probably influenced by the word complot, a word so obscure there’s no actual etymology on it even though it’s probably where we get the book plot sense. It comes from the Old French complot, though no one knows where it came from before that. It might be from the word compeloter, but that’s pretty strange considering it means “to roll into a ball”.

Told you it was weird.

Tony Jebson’s page on the Origins of Old English

Monday, April 18, 2016

A-to-Z Challenge: O

Today’s word: order. No fancy introductions today. Except this.

Order showed up in the early thirteenth century, the verb deriving from the noun, which meant a religious order in particular. It comes from the Old French ordre/ordene, position, rule, or religious order. Before that, it was the classical Latin ordinem, which pretty much just means order. The Romans actually took it from the Italian root word ord-, arrange, which is interesting because usually when they stole words it was from Greek. And not Italy. Where the seat of the Empire was.


Saturday, April 16, 2016

A-to-Z Challenge: N

Okay, past the halfway point. Let’s do this.

What’s in a name? Literally. Where does name come from?

As a noun, name comes from the Old English nama/noma, which means either name or noun. No, that sentence is not confusing. As a verb, it comes from namian, which just means to name. Those words both come from the Proto Germanic namon and before that the Proto Indo European nomn.

That’s it? It’s got a really simple explanation? It barely even changed over the last eight thousand years. How boring.

Tony Jebson’s page on the Origins of Old English

Friday, April 15, 2016

A-to-Z Challenge: M

We’re at the halfway point! It’s all downhill from here. And, coincidentally, today’s word is mountain.

Mountain showed up in the early thirteenth century from the Old French montaigne and before that the Vulgar Latin montanea. The Vulgar Latin is related to the classical Latin montanus, mountainous and mons, mountain.

And…that’s it! Not much about mountains, I guess. Enjoy your rest of the day.


Thursday, April 14, 2016

A-to-Z Challenge: L

What a load.

The word is load. Yeah, I’m getting kind of tired.

Load showed up as a verb in the late fifteenth century but a noun in the early thirteenth century. It comes from the Old English lad, which means way or course. No, I don’t know how it got from one to the other. Maybe from the idea of carrying a load along a path to a destination? But that’s just a guess on my part.

Before that, it comes from the Proto Germanic laitho and Proto Indo European leit, go forth, the origin word for lead. Um, not the metal, the other one. And the word lode actually comes from the same place.

Tony Jebson’s page on the Origins of Old English

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

A-to-Z Challenge: K

Kite! Sometimes I’m out of ideas so I just pick random words I happen to be reading.

Any birders out there probably know that kite isn’t just something you fly at the end of a string but a kind of bird. Apparently the former was named after the latter when it came out in the seventeenth century because it hovers in the air like a bird. Why that particular bird, I don’t know.

Kite the bird comes from the Old English, and it’s thought to come from the sound the bird makes (don’t ask me how; it makes no sense to me). Interestingly enough (shut up, I think it’s interesting), “go fly a kite” comes from a song Bing Crosby sang. Just “fly a kite” is over a century older, appearing in 1805 meaning to “raise money by issuing commercial paper on nonexistent funds”, and it’s where we get check kiting from.

Tony Jebson’s page on the Origins of Old English

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

A-to-Z Challenge: J

Day ten. Hey, how about we look at joke? That’s a funny word.

I’m sorry. Please don’t leave.

Joke showed up in the mid seventeenth century as joque, coming from the classical Latin iocari, which is just joke with an I instead of a J. It can be traced all the way back to the Proto Indo European yek-, to speak. And today’s interesting fact is: the term “black joke” was originally slang for a smutty song because the phrased was used in a popular song. And that’s not even the only song related phrase etymology we have this month.


Monday, April 11, 2016

A-to-Z Challenge: I

It’s what? Day nine? I was kind of running out of ideas when I went, hey, idea. That’ll do.

Idea showed up in the late fourteenth century meaning an archetype or a concept from the mind of god. It comes from the classical Latin idea, which means idea (if that makes sense). Unsurprisingly, Latin took it from the Greek idea (oh, man, the spellings in this one are killing me), which, all together now, means idea. It comes from the word idein, which in turn comes from the Proto Indo European wid-es-ya- and weid-, to see, and the origin word for vision. I guess because you see an idea in your head, it comes from the word for seeing.


Saturday, April 9, 2016

A-to-Z Challenge: H

For the eighth letter, I’ve chosen hack. You know, like cats hack up hairballs. All down the back of the couch and onto the floor.

It was a gross day.

There are a bunch of different definitions for hack, like you would with an axe or hacking into a computer or hacking up a hairball all over the rug when if you moved six inches you’d be on the dining room floor. Hack—like you would a tree—showed up in the early thirteenth century from the Old English tohaccian, hack to pieces. Before that, it was the West Germanic hakkon and Proto Indo European keg, hook or tooth (the origin word for hook, BTW). The coughing hack is possibly related to this based on the idea of hacking being difficult, but it could also just be onomatopoeia for the sound you make when you cough.

Finally, there’s hacking a computer. Hacker first showed up in 1975 and from that came hacking in 1984. Its origin is pretty obscure. It might be from the first hack, or it might actually be from the word hackney, like a horse drawn carriage. You know how a writer is called a hack when they’re accused of doing “common” work? That comes from hackney, which was shortened to hack and used to refer to people “hired to do routine work”. And it’s possible hacker comes from there.

Or not. For something so recent, we sure don’t know that much about it.


Friday, April 8, 2016

A-to-Z Challenge: G

It’s been a full week of doing the Challenge. How are you holding up?

Anyway, today we’re looking at grit. It comes from the Old English greot, which means earth or sand, the Proto Germanic greutan, tiny particles of crushed rock, and the Proto Indo European ghreu, rub or grind. Grits, like you’d eat, is of course related, although it has a slightly different history. It comes from the Old English grytt, bran, and the Proto Germanic grutja, which comes from greutan. I guess they took the word for crushed grain from the word for pieces of crushed rock, which makes sense. For once.

Tony Jebson’s page on the Origins of Old English

Thursday, April 7, 2016

A-to-Z Challenge: F

Okay, and now flip. Starting to flag here. Ooh, maybe I should have done flag…

Flip showed up in the late sixteenth century, meaning, and I’m totally serious here, to toss with the thumb or to fillip. Fillip. That’s an actual word. Apparently it means flicking your fingernail of your thumb. Wow. Okay. I just need to let that sink in there for a minute.

Anyway, it’s not really sure where it comes from before that. It could be from the word flap or the abovementioned fillip, and it’s obviously related to flip-flop in some way. Also, to be flip, like being a smartass, is actually the shortened form of flippant. So it’s not related to the other flip in anyway.

And that’s it. It doesn’t have any origins older than English, its origins aren’t certain, and the one origin that is definite (to be flip) isn’t related to the others.

Words, man. Words.


Wednesday, April 6, 2016

A-to-Z Challenge: E

Today, we’re looking at eat and…I just suddenly realized that I’m hungry.

Anyway! Eat comes from the Old English etan, which just means eat, and before that, the Proto Germanic etan and Proto Indo European ed-, to eat. Ed- is also the origin for edible, no surprises there, although edible comes to us by way of Latin rather than through straight Germanic roots.

So yes, we have two words related to food that originate from the same word and yet came to English by two very divergent paths. Because words are weird.

Tony Jebson’s page on the Origins of Old English

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

A-to-Z Challenge: D

Today, we’re going driving.

Drive comes from the Old English drifan, force, push, or drive back. It comes from the Proto Germanic driban and earlier, the Proto Indo European dhreibh, drive or push. Originally it meant something that you drove forward from behind, like a carriage that you drive forward by being behind the horses. But then cars ended up changing everything and now we don’t do much besides aim and hit the gas.

Having fun yet? : )

Tony Jebson’s page on the Origins of Old English

Monday, April 4, 2016

A-to-Z Challenge: C

Today’s word: clod.

Clod doesn’t have an exact time period of its origin, something you should probably get used to. It comes from the Old English clod-, which was a prefix that was part of words like clodhamer, which literally translates to field-goer. Clod- comes from the Proto Germanic kludda- and the Proto Indo European gleu, clay and glei, stick together. And yes, it’s the origin word for clay, as well as glue and gluten, and probably clot too.

You clods.

Tony Jebson’s page on the Origins of Old English

Saturday, April 2, 2016

A-to-Z Challenge: B

Word two! It’s blunderbuss, which someone had mentioned curiosity about ages ago (sorry! I don’t remember who!).

Blunderbuss has two meanings, one, an insensitive “blundering” person, and two, a musket that can fire at close range. Um, okay. It showed up in the mid seventeenth century from the Dutch donderbus, a mix of donder, thunder, and bus, gun. So a blunderbuss is a thunder gun, first literally and then figuratively. Apparently people started pronouncing donderbus wrong because donder sounded kind of like blunder, which has a totally separate etymology. But weirdly enough, donder survives in English as dunderhead. Well, probably. There are no better guesses as to where “dunder” comes from.



Friday, April 1, 2016

A-to-Z Challenge: A

The word we’re kicking off the challenge with is avid. You know, like someone who likes to read is an avid reader or…hm, I can’t think of a way to use that word that isn’t describing someone’s fondness for a hobby.

Avid first showed up in 1769, yes, an exact date. That’s pretty rare, although more common the more recent it gets. It comes from the French (as in modern French, what they speak today) avide, greedy, and before that the classical Latin avidus, also greedy. So I guess avid is greedy. Interesting.