Thursday, November 20, 2014

Language of Confusion: Thanks (But No Thanks)

Because a certain holiday is coming up for us Americans. You lucky Canadians already got it over with and everyone else doesn’t have to deal with Forced Family Interaction Day. How I envy you that.

Thank (the verb, not the noun with the s at the end) comes from the Old English þancian, and since the þ is pronounced th, that means the word is thancian. I’m not sure if that c was pronounced hard or soft, but since it comes from the Proto Germanic thankojan, it seems likely.

Now, the word can be traced all the way back to the Proto Indo European word tong, which means think or feel. And yes, that’s the origin word for think as well. In fact, think has a very similar origin. It comes from the Old English þencan and Proto Germanic thankjan, so think and thank have been only one letter off from each other for what? Five thousand years? As for why a word that means think evolved to mean gratitude, well, that’s a little less clear. It’s just known that by the eleventh century, a word related to þancian, þanc, which first meant thought and eventually started to mean good thoughts. From there, it went to gratitude, and that’s why we have thanks.

Looks like it’s a quick one today. I guess you owe me your thanks : ).

Tony Jebson’s page on the Origins of Old English


  1. This is a relevant word for the upcoming holiday season. I did not know the history of it.

  2. Thanks!
    Well, the word does appear in early books of the Bible, so I can believe it's been around a while.

  3. ...
    I have nothing thing morning.

  4. You can thank me later.

    Okay, there it (almost) is.

  5. Forced Family Interaction Day is an apt term for the occasion!

  6. Perhaps I should get the kiddos to start saying thankian. That might be fun.

    Have you ever considered...stick figure comic etymology...?

  7. Forced Family Interaction Day ... snort, snort, giggle. So funny.

    Usually I resent this day. I would normally have been just finishing a very stressful work period -- end of marking period, report card data entry, parent-teacher conferences -- and I would be expecting to spend my days off WRITING. Cooking dinner for an army of relatives? THAT CUTS INTO MY WRITING TIME!!

    Since I quit teaching and I'm supposed to be writing every day ... ahem ... I have a different attitude. I might even enjoy the cooking. :)

  8. Didn't know it was a word with such a complicated origin. Maybe that is why so many people don't know how to say it.
    We love our forced family interaction day though my daughter is overseas and missing it. First time we're not all together.

  9. I miss forced family interaction day.... We don't celebrate it in NZ. I love holidays where presents aren't a part of it.


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