Thursday, May 26, 2022

Language Of Confusion: Extreme Junction, Part IV

The last one! As usual for the finales of multi-parters, I’ve saved the weirdest for last. These words might not seem like they’re descended from the Proto Indo European yeug-to join. But they are.
First today, adjust. Yes, adjust is from join, but no, just is not, the two words aren’t related at all. Adjust showed up in the late fourteenth century meaning to correct or remedy, while meaning to adjust something to conform didn’t show up until the mid seventeenth century, and a person becoming adjusted to something wasn’t until 1924! Adjust comes from the Old French adjuster/ajoster, from the Late Latin adiuxtare, to bring near. The ad- is from ad, to, and the rest is from the classical Latin iuxta, which could mean near, or according to, and is from yeug-. Just on the other hand comes from iustus, from the Proto Indo European root yewes-, law. In other words, they’re totally not related. What a difference an X makes. It’s easier to see in the word juxtapose, which showed up in 1826, with juxtaposition actually showing up in the mid seventeenth century. The word is basically juxta- + position, so to be in a position near to something.
Next, another word that’s not related to just (but is to adjust): joust. It showed up in the fourteenth century meaning what you’d expect, to fight on horseback. It’s from the Old French joster/joste, which is from the Latin iuxtare, to be next to, which is unsurprisingly from iuxta. As to how being next to got to mean hitting someone with a lance, well, let’s look at the word jostle. It showed up in the mid sixteenth century meaning to knock against (like you would during a joust!), and it’s really just joust with an -el at the end. Being near someone to bumping into them, to hitting them in the face with a lance. Makes perfect sense!
Now, almost all English words are Proto Indo European, with emphasis on the European part. The word yoga on the other hand is obviously Indian—Hindi, specifically. It showed up in English in 1820, while yogi actually showed up earlier in the early seventeenth century. Those just copy the Hindi words, which are from the Sanskrit yoga-s, which means union or yoking—with the Supreme Spirit—and from yeug-. Basically, yoga is yoking your spirit to a higher power. And now it’s something white yuppies do to pretend they’re spiritual.
The final word we’re going to look at is zygote, which, yes, is somehow related to yeug-. It showed up in 1878 from a German scientist, for no reason I can figure. The word—though not the definition—is related to the zygomatic bone in your face, the name of which showed up almost two hundred years earlier in 1709, from the word zygoma, which showed up in the late seventeenth century, called that because it joins the bones of your face together. Back to zygote, that word is from the Greek zygotos, zygote, and also things like yoke and weighing scales. And zygotos just happens to come from yeug-. No I can’t figure out how they got a clump of cells from that either.
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
Encyclopaedia Britannica
Orbis Latinus


  1. Speaking of jousting, I just saw the best jousting scene ever in an episode of Galavant, which I am not recommending at this point. I'm undecided on whether the show is any good or not.

  2. How often do we use joust?

    I wonder if this comment will take. Many of my comments keep vanishing into oblivion these days.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Joust is one of those words we don't use.

    I wonder if this comment will take.

    Many of my comments just vanish these days.

  5. I was not expecting yoga. I mean, I knew yoga came from Hindi, but I hadn't considered where it came from before that.

    I was not expecting zygote either. But, as you know, scientists had to give names to the things they were describing, so at least that sort of kind or makes a bit of sense.


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