Thursday, April 14, 2022

Language Of Confusion: Flats, Part IV

And this series has a ways to go yet. Look, there are a ton of words that come from the Proto Indo European plat-, spread and its root pele-, flat or to spread.
Not too long ago, I went over the word plant, which is another descendent of plat-/pele-, either because of leveling/flattening the earth to plant, or spreading plants across, or something else like that. A plant is a form of vegetation, so why are literally none of the words that end in plant related to that? Let’s find out. Well, maybe. Probably not.
Implant showed up in the mid sixteenth century, meaning to plant in—but not literally. It was “to plant in” ideas or emotions, and then in 1886, it took on a more literal meaning: to plant in teeth. It comes from the French implanter, to insert, a mix in- (from the Proto Indo European en, meaning in) and planter, to plant, which is of course where we get plant from. In other words, because implant wasn’t literal implanting (at first), it has nothing to do with plants.
Transplant is even older, having shown up in the mid fifteenth century from the Late Latin transplantare, to plant in a different place. It’s a mix of the classical Latin trans, across or beyond, and plantare, to plant. This one at least first meant transplanting actual plants, it’s just that in the sixteenth century it started to refer to people (i.e. transplanting from one area to another), and then in the eighteenth century it started to be used in medicine related to tissue, and no, I don’t want to think about what they were transplanting in eighteenth century medicine.
Supplant showed up in the early fourteenth century, meaning it’s older than anything except maybe plant. It comes from the Old French supplanter/sosplanter, to drive out or usurp, from the classical Latin supplantare, just to supplant. The sup- part comes from sub, under, and the plant part actually refers to the sole of the foot here, one of the many definitions of plant. So to supplant is to… get something up from under the sole of the foot? And that morphed into usurping, which morphed into replacing something? Can anyone wrap their brain around this one?
Okay, the last one we’re going to look at today will make more sense when I explain things. What is it? Clan. Really. It actually comes from Scotland in around the fifteenth century, coming from the Gaelic clann, family. The Scots actually took the word from the Latin planta, a plant or in this case, an offshoot. Why the C? Well, as it turns out, some branches of Gaelic substitute the K sound for the P sound. And that’s why clan is not plan.
Online Etymology Dictionary
Google Translate
University of Texas at Austin Linguistic Research Center
University of Texas at San Antonio’s page on Proto Indo European language
Orbis Latinus


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