Thursday, June 1, 2023

Language Of Confusion: Going In Circles, Part III

Back to looking at words related to circle, which are descended from the Proto Indo European sker-, to turn or bend. These words… well it’s starting to get less obvious.
Curve makes sense at least. It showed up in the early fifteenth century as a verb, not becoming a noun until the late seventeenth century. It comes from the classical Latin curvus, curved, from the verb curvare, to bend, which is from sker-. Which makes sense, I guess they just dropped the S.
Then there’s crepe—both the food that’s a thin pancake and like wrinkled paper/fabric. The fabric showed up first, in 1797, while the food showed up a full eighty years later, and was based off the fabric in the sense that the pancake was small and curled. The word comes from the French crêpe, same meanings, from the Old French crespe, a ruffle or frill. That’s from the classical Latin crispa, curly, which is from sker-.
And you might be thinking that crispa looks like crisp, and there’s a reason for that. Crisp is from the Old English crisp, where it meant curly, crimped, or wavy, and it’s from the classical Latin crispus,  which is another version of crispa. No one really knows why, but sometime in the sixteenth century, crisp started to mean brittle (possibly in relation to things being cooked and becoming brittle), and then in 1814, it started to mean neat and fresh in appearance, then chilly air by 1859. In about 1826, it referred to things that were overdone in cooking—burned to a crisp—and when potato chips were invented, British English started to refer to them as potato crisps by 1897. So that’s the crazy, convoluted origin of crisp.
Crest showed up in the early fourteenth century as a noun meaning the highest part of a helmet, and then as a verb later in the century that referred to providing with a crest. It was around that time period it also came to mean the highest part of a hill or mountain and the tuft of an animal, and it didn’t start to mean the crest of a hill (or wave) until the nineteenth century. The word comes from the Old French creste, which referred to the crest on an animal, from the classical Latin crista, a crest or plume, which is believed to be from crispus, and thus sker-. Weird, huh? More or less convoluted than crisp?
Finally today, I want to touch on flounce. Not flounce like a person would do—that’s completely unrelated. No, I mean the flounce of a dress. A flounce is a ruffle—a crisp!—and it showed up in 1713 from the Middle English frounce. That’s from the Old French fronce, Frankish hrunkjan, and Proto Germanic hrunk, which is from sker-. So we got rid of the S, put on an H, got rid of that, put on an F, and changed the R to an L, and that’s how we have the name for a ruffle for a dress.
Try not to think about it too much.
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
University of Texas at Arlington
Tony Jebson’s page on the Origins of Old English
Encyclopaedia Britannica

1 comment:

  1. Okay, so I would never have associated flounce with circle or crisp. You really do learn something new every day.!


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