This week, we continue our look at words related to guard by looking at
words that look nothing like guard. But they are related! All of them come from
the Proto Indo European wer-, to perceive or watch out for.
All the words today have ware in them.
Aware comes from the Old English gewaer,
aware—yes, it once had a g in it!
There’s no explanation for why they dropped that letter, though. Gewaer comes
from the Proto Germanic ga-waraz, where ga- is an
intensive prefix and waraz, meaning wary or cautious, is from wer-. So
to be aware is to be very cautious, and somehow even though a- is a prefix on
its own, the a in aware is not from that. Words are so stupid sometimes.
Next we’re looking at beware, and I’m predicting it will be less
related to aware than I think. It showed up in the thirteenth century and is thought to simply be making the phrase “be ware” into one word. That’s
really it. Be- is also a prefix on its own,
but that’s not what it is here. It’s the word be, which is distinct from the
prefix, as the prefix is (stick with me
here) from the word by. Which is not related to be. How did this word turn out to be stupider than the last one???
Okay, let’s look at hardware, maybe that will be less stupid. It showed
up in the mid fifteenth century meaning small metal goods—referring to computers obviously didn’t come until
much later, 1947—and it’s just a mix of hard and ware. As for software, you know, the
non-physical parts of computers, that actually showed up in 1851,
but it referred to, well, soft wares, like cotton or wool. It meant literally
soft wares until 1960, where it came to mean computer programs because it was
the opposite of hardware. Well, this one is much less stupid.
Finally today, warehouse. No big surprises here. It showed up in the
mid fourteenth century as a
combination of ware and house, and it
was a place to house your wares. Try to wrap your brain around that one.
University of Texas at Austin Linguistic Research Center
University of Texas at San Antonio’s page on Proto Indo European language
Tony Jebson’s page on the Origins of Old English
Small metal goods for hardware - like hammers and stuff. Why they call it a hardware store, obviously.ReplyDelete
I'm surprised warehouse has been around that long.ReplyDelete
How did guard become things? Was that in last week's post and I just wasn't paying attention?ReplyDelete
I liked the way software and hardware have evolved. Software refers to only one obvious thing nowadays: algorithm. No one thinks of it as cotton and such soft ware! Good one!ReplyDelete