Thursday, December 8, 2011

Language of Confusion: Parts of Speech, part 2

Last week, I talked about the origins of some parts of speech and how they were probably created because with the printing press making books available to more people, grammar suddenly mattered. The meaning may have existed before 1440, but the name did not.

Preposition showed up in the late fourteenth century, from the classical Latin praepositionem. It is a combination of prae(pre-, as in before) and positionem (I’m pretty sure you can guess what that word means). Together, they make “put/place before. The grammatical sense was inspired by the Greeks, the first for using “put before” as the name for by, to, and all the rest. You have a lot to thank the ancient Greeks for, either by way of Latin or directly. In terms of naming grammatical terms, they came up with virtually everything.

Next we have interjection. It showed up in the early fifteenth century and also comes from classical Latin, in this case interiectionem. (I would guess you can thank Old French for throwing that j in there). It comes from the prefix inter- (between) and icere (to throw, also the origin word for jet...really). So it’s “to throw between”, which is appropriate for the sense of the word.

Conjunction comes from the same time period, and it comes from the classical Latin conjunctionem, past participle of conjugare. That is also the origin word for conjugaland it means “join together”. Com- means together. Jugal, from jugular, means throat or neck (and before you ask, yes) and is related to yoke or join. Conjugal often used in the sexual sense, even today. So the next time you’re looking at and, but or or, just think that those two phrases are doing it.

You can’t unthink that.

Garret Wilson’s blog post on Greek influence
Idea Finder’s post on the Printing Press
And as always, the Online Etymology Dictionary


  1. I LOVE stuff like this.

    I LOVE to know where our words came from, even though I'm very often shocked, lol.

  2. I don't mind my phrases having sex, I just wish that they would procreate already and give me some new baby phrases to work with instead of the same crap I already have laying around in my brain.

  3. No, I can't get that visual out of my head anytime soon!


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