Thursday, September 27, 2012

Language of Confusion: Scape

Scape is a word, although probably not one anyone uses much. We say “landscape” or even “seascape”, you don’t hear anyone use just scape anywhere.

View scape showed up in 1773, taken from the end of the word landscape. That word had been around for over a century, first showing up around 1600 in reference to paintings of nature. Surprisingly enough, it was taken from the Dutch landschap, a word evolved from the Middle Dutch landscap, which means region and is taken from their word for land…land. Yes, really. The modern definition of landscape, as in what you do to your back yard, is fairly recent, only showing up in 1916. Oh, and that “scap” part of landscap? It’s from the Old English -sciepe and is the origin word for the suffix -ship (the part of friendship, relationship and all those, but with nothing to do with boats). 

There’s also another scape, this one more along the lines of the word escape, and it showed up much earlier in the thirteenth century, when for some reason people decided escape was annoying with that e in the front (which didn’t last; by the end of the seventeenth century they were back to the e). Escape itself came from the Old North Frenchescaper and Old Frencheschaper, which can be further traced back to the Vulgar Latin excappare. Do you see how escape has the word cape in it? Apparently that’s because it literally means “get out of a cape”, metaphorical in the sense that while fleeing you would leave your pursuer with nothing but your cape. The ex- is a prefix meaning “out of”and the cappare is from cappa in the Late Period Latin language, or cape (because of the slight differences in the forms of Latin, in classical Latin the word for cape is…cape).

TL;DR: Landscape is Dutch and has more in common with the suffix of friendship than it does with escape, which is French and Latin in origin and has to do with a metaphorical cape.

Seriously, languages are weird.



  1. Replies
    1. Don't ask a Cubs fan that question. They'll yell at you for six hours.

  2. Languages are weird!

    Does anyone even wear a cape anymore?

    Outside of a superhero movie, of course...


Please validate me.