Metymology? Mashed Radish turns three

Oh yeah: I missed a few important milestones recently.

Mashed Radish turned three earlier this month. Politics inspired quite a few posts – Donald Trump especially – this past year. While politics may divide us, a shared love of words certainly brings us together. Like animals, which also prompted quite a lot of writing. You know, I think this blog could definitely do with more animal posts.

I’ve also reached over 10,000 followers. Wow. Gosh. Thanks, everyone, for your continued – or new – interest, readership, comments, and support.

Speaking of support, I’ve a third milestone comping up which I’ll be sure not to miss: my second wedding anniversary. I really need to thank my wife for all the support she’s given and sacrifices (yes, etymologies have their costs) she’s made for this project.

Now, how’d the first two pass me by? Well, I moved to Dublin, for one. For another, my head’s been absolutely stuffed with Shakespeare, whose complete works I’ve been reading and writing about at Shakespeare Confidential. I’ve also been regularly contributing to Slate’s Lexicon ValleyStrong Language, and Oxford Dictionaries. Etymologies open doors to the past, as I like to say. And, if three years is any measure, to the future as well.

But I can’t sign off without a word origin, can I? So, how about a quick etymology of etymology?


We actually have evidence of the word etymology in a Latin form in Old English, though we see it Anglicized around the late 1300s, early 1400s . English gets the word in part from French (ethimologie) and in part directly from Latin (etymologia). Latin, in turn, borrowed the word from the Greek ἐτυμολογία (etymologia). If you’ll allow me to jump over some intermediary derived forms, the Greek ultimately joins ἐτεός (eteos, “true”) and λόγος (logos, “word”). Some think the Greek eteos is related to the Old English soð (“truth”), which, if you’ve been reading your Shakespeare, you might recognize in soothsayer or the mild oath For sooth! 

Historically then, we can understand etymology as the analysis of a word on the basis of its literal, or true, meaning. We should be careful not to commit the etymological fallacy, however, which posits that only the original meaning of a word is its right sense. Wrong. Words change. That’s in part why I love etymology. But we don’t want to be too, too careful, because I think we can glean insights in those ancient meanings still relevant to us today – and because I wouldn’t have a blog with a third anniversary to mark!

m ∫ r ∫


3 thoughts on “Metymology? Mashed Radish turns three

  1. I think it’s confusing for words to change too much. The word gentleman for example. I like communication to be precise and it drives me nuts when people feel free to make up their own definitions for words. How am I supposed to understand you if you define things differently from me?


  2. I have a question, although you probably won’t be able to answer it. I just wonder why you speak and spell things like American English but you live in the UK? I recently decided I wanted to move to England, London to be exact (it’s out of the line of fire between the dotard & rocket man) and I’ve been having so much trouble w/ SPEAKing and being understood that I actually had to go to Oxford Dictionaries online (and on my phone) to have half a hope of being understood. They do EVERYthing w/ language differently: from speaking to pronouncing words that look the same but sure don’t sound like it. Like zebra which rhymes w/ Debra, private which is said w/ a SHORT i instead of a long one & many others. Herb is pronounced w/ an ‘h’ sound. If you say ‘an herb,’ without pronouncing the h, or when I did, the person is likely to have a full-on fit.
    I’m very upset about not knowing British English, especially since I have a friend who’s lived in Oxford & London all his life but who was never upset about how I spoke different. He’s a linguist and always knew what I’m saying. The first time I visited London he told me to put my suitcase in the boot & I didn’t know what he was talking about but didn’t want to ask (I’d already been embarrassed asking about the loo & didn’t want a repeat of the feeling.) I was trying to think of what the boot could be when he said “The trunk. I believe you Americans call it the trunk.”
    He never made that big a deal of my speaking American English. I was totally unprepared for how others were going to act, some of whom give the distinct impression they’ve never even heard of American English much less know I speak it ( “There’s no such word as Math, it’s called Maths.” ) If I said I that in America they’d have a problem w/ me. Even saying herbology & pronouncing the h when I’m talking about Harry Potter, where they WOULD pronounce it that way made my American friends think I’m strange.


    1. I live in Ireland but am from the US. I’d say 99% of what I say is clear to British and Irish English speakers. There are many vocabulary differences, but we are ultimately speaking the same language. I would say that it’s a bit hard for me to understand certain non-American English dialects/accents (especially due to vowels), though, than it is for them the other way around because of the prominence of American TV and movies abroad.


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