Thursday, October 8, 2020

Language Of Confusion: Deleted, Part I

There’s a surprising number of words that mean getting rid of something. Might as well look at them now!

Delete itself showed up in the early sixteenth century from the classical Latin deletus, which means extinction or annihilation. That’s the past participle of the verb delere, which is just to delete, which itself is from delinere, to smudge—to delete was to erase by smudging something. Delinere is a mix of the prefix de-, from or away, and linere, smear or wipe, so yeah. To wipe away is to erase. Somehow that’s from the Proto Indo European slei-, slime or sticky, seriously that’s where we get the word slime from. No, I don’t know how we get from slime to delete. That’s just how it is.
Now let’s look at erase. It showed up in the seventeenth century from the classical Latin erasus, from the verb eradere, erase or scrape off. The e- is from ex-, out [], and radere literally means to shave or scrape, so to erase is to scrape out. Some people think that radere is from the Proto Indo European root red-, to scrape, scratch, or gnaw, but, well, the fact that it would make sense is suspicious. Never trust making sense when it comes to etymology.
Case and point, eradicate. You’d think it would be related to erase, or at the very least rad-. Nope. Not one bit. Eradicate showed up in the early fifteenth century from the classical Latin eradicatus, from the verb eradicare, which means to destroy, uproot, or root out. The e- is from ex- again, though it means out here, and the rest is from radix, root. That one is from the Proto Indo European wrad-, branch or root and is actually the origin word for radish. So yes. Because you root something out, eradicate is more related to radish than erase.
Obliterate showed up in the seventeenth century from the classical Latin obliteratus, from obliterare, to obliterate, efface, or erase. No shocking revelations here. The ob- means against while the rest comes from litteraletter. Okay, may have spoken too soon about there not being any shocking revelations. Apparently there was a Latin phrase, literas scribere, which meant to write across letters—as in over them, striking them through. So because people had to strikethrough letters, we obliterate things.


Please validate me.