Gopher: Etymology of the day

While ultimately obscure, some think gopher, first attested in the early 1800s, comes from the Louisiana French gaufre, “honeycomb” or “waffle,” describing the structure of their burrows. Gaufre may in turn be from a Frankish word related to the Dutch wafel, source of waffle

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Kid: Etymology of the day

Kid, likely borrowed from Old Norse, named a “young goat” (1200s) long before it did “child.” Kid as “child” was a slang term in late 1500s, familiar, though informal, by the late 1800s.

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(Pixabay)

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Some etymological—and political—lessons of “condemn”

The word condemn is surprisingly related to the Irish word for “poem.” 

White supremacists rallied in Charlottesville, Virginia on Saturday, leading to the death of three people, including Heather Heyer, a counter-protester driven down by an Ohio terrorist with neo-Nazi sympathies. It took President Trump a woeful two days to directly condemn this violence and hate—and even then, his “strongest possible terms” left many wanting. In the wake of these horrid events, today’s post will focus on the origin of the word condemn.

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Condemn, as in to “declare a building unfit for use,” first appears in the 18th century. (Pixabay

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Nuance: Etymology of the day

The word nuance, first attested in the 1780s, comes from the French for “shade of color,” which in turn goes back to the Latin nubes, “cloud, mist, vapor.”

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Clouds can have a nuanced beauty. (Pixabay)

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“Armageddon,” “catastrophe,” and other “apocalyptic” word origins

The end of the world loves ancient Greek and the Bible.

Threats between North Korea and President Trump this week made many of us fear were approaching the brink of a nuclear catastrophe—among other, stronger and more colorful terms like armageddon. Well, not even the prospect of the end of the world can shake the etymological curiosity of this blogger. Why not go out with a little word nerdery and find out where our English’s apocalyptic vocabulary comes from?

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Mushroom cloud from the atomic bombing of Nagasaki (Wikimedia Commons)

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Lions, chameleons, and shih-tzus, oh my!: 12 “lion” etymologies

Liger is much older than you think. Tigon is even older.

Earlier this week, I let the etymological cat out of the bag for International Cat Day. Today, I keep with the feline theme for World Lion Day. Yes, these national/international days can get gimmicky—except where they raise money for wildlife conservation. But I really can’t resist a reason to explore words that come from the lion’s den, so to speak. Here are the origins of 12 lion-related words, with a few bits of other beastly lexical trivia scattered throughout:

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Launch: Etymology of the Day

Via French lancher/lancier, launch ultimately comes from the Latin lancea, a “light spear,” which is also the source of lance (except we’re not using spears anymore…). The verb, first attested in the early 1400s, shifted from “hurl” to “send off,” hence boats and, much more scarily, missiles.

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Angel with the lance, Ponte Sant’Angelo, Rome. (Wikimedia Commons)

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10 Catty Etymologies for International Cat Day

From German hangovers to Iraqi silks, the English language loves its cats.

It’s International Cat Day, founded, apparently, in 2002 by the International Fund for Animal Welfare. So, take a break from cat pics and vids online today and enjoy some cat-themed etymologies. Catymologies? Yeah, no, yeah…I think I have to.

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Curiosity may have killed the cat, but I’m pretty etymology never did. (Pixabay)

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Spurious: Etymology of the Day

Spurious, now meaning “false,” originally described children born out of wedlock—or, more crudely, bastards. It comes from the Latin spurius, an “illegitimate child,” itself possibly of Etruscan origin. The ancient Romans also commonly used Spurius as a given name for such offspring.

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Flat-Earthers have longed presented spurious evidence for their theories, those bastards. (Wikimedia Commons).

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From textiles to testimonies: the origin of “panel”

A panel of jurors was originally a piece of paper on which the names of jurors were listed. 

Last night, we learned Special Counsel Robert Mueller has impaneled a grand jury—which allows prosecutors to subpoena documents and ensures witnesses testify under oath—in his investigation into potential ties between Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and Russia.

In the wake of the news, legal and political experts have been fielding the questions: “What does this panel mean for Mueller’s investigation? What does it mean for Trump?” Word nerds like me, meanwhile, are addressing a different query: “What, exactly, is impanel, and where does the word panel come from?”   

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Panel: Before it was wood, it was cloth. (Pixabay)

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