After some last-minute budget negotiations on Thursday, it looks like the US Congress will avert a shutdown and fund the government—at least until they come up to the next brink. Let’s negotiate the origins of these words in a Friday etymological news roundup:
Donald Trump is coming up on his first one hundred days in office, a conventional measure of the initial success of a new president going back to FDR. But with a thwarted agenda, palace intrigue, and some self-inflicted wounds, Trump is pushing back against the meaningfulness of this traditional 100-day benchmark. What’s a hundred days, after all? he’s asking. Etymologically, Trump may just have a point: The word hundred is a little trickier to reckon than you may think.
Outside of history class and the rhetoric of war, we don’t hear the word armada too often, but the word is related to a veritable armada, shall we say, of other everyday words. Let’s look into the etymology of armada.
Now that Easter’s passed, what to do with all of those eggs? If they’re not chocolate or hard-boiled, whip up an omelette. You can throw in some mushrooms, peppers, cheese, and perhaps finish it off, etymologically speaking, with just a skosh of…knife?
If it’s raining outside, you might want to put on your “log-feet”—er, galoshes. Good thing we don’t look to etymology for fashion tips.
English put on the word galosh—which we usually use as galoshes, because footwear comes in pairs—in the late 14th century. Back then, galoshes named a variety of boots and shoes, though especially a kind of wooden shoe strapped onto the foot with leather thongs or the like. By the mid-1800s, the word was slipping into its modern sense, a waterproof overshoe, usually made of rubber. Today in the US, galoshes tend to refer rubber to rain boots.
How’d we go from wood to rubber? Let’s just we’ve come a long way in our shoe technology. Over the centuries, galoshes could refer to pattens. These were a kind of outdoor footwear, worn over one’s regular shoes, with a wooden platform (clog) or metal ring that elevated the stepper over mud—and dung. Also worn over shoes and protecting the shoe from the elements, galoshes provide a similar, though less ridiculous looking, function.
The English galosh is from the French galoche, whose origin has two main theories. The first traces galosh to the Late Latin galliculua, short for gallicula solea, “Gallic shoe,” a type of footwear associated with the Gauls and perceived as rustic.
The other theory roots galosh in the Vulgar Latin *galopia, borrowed from the Greek kalopous (κᾱλόπους), literally “log-foot.” The word joins kalon (κᾶλον, a word used of logs or firewood) and pous (πούς, meaning and related to our word “foot”).
Etymology—ever the trendsetter.
m ∫ r ∫
United Airlines is under fire after guards violently dragged a passenger from a flight the airline overbooked on Monday. Its CEO, Oscar Munoz, only made matters worse when he apologized for “having to re-accommodate these customers.” United is clearly making up its own, all-too-self-accommodating definition of accommodate. So, let’s help them out: The history and origin of accommodate has some valuable lessons to impart.
Do chauffeurs ever chafe at—or from—the long days spent behind the steering wheel? Etymologically they do, at least.
After Ivanka Trump told CBS that “I don’t know what it means to be complicit,” Merriam-Webster helped her out with its definition: “Helping to commit a crime or do wrong in some way.” The dictionary, whose lexicographical sick burns have been lighting up Twitter, observed that complicit also trended back in March, used by Saturday Night Live as the name of a perfume in parody of the president’s daughter.
In its look at complicit, Merriam-Webster noted that the word, which it first attests in 1856, is likely a back-formation of complicity, notoriously defined in the late 17th-century as “a consenting or partnership in evil.” But what are the deeper roots of complicity? Let’s unfold them.
There is a partisan showdown in the US Senate. Democrats have the votes to filibuster the nomination of Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court, preventing the cloture needed to take up his vote. Will Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, as he seems poised to do, use the nuclear option?
Senate politics doesn’t just brim with conflict—it’s also teeming with colorful and unusual vocabulary. Let’s take these terms to the etymological floor.
The survey collected a random sample. The clerk organized the random boxes in the storeroom. She got a weird text message from this random stranger. Can I ask you a random question? He’s so random, like, sometimes he’ll chew gum while drinking coffee. Random kinda seems like a random word, doesn’t it? Where does it come from?
First attested in the early 1300s, random originally referred to “great speed” or “force,” used especially in the phrases to run at random or with great random. Random’s velocity and violence conveyed a sense of impetuousness and rashness. And so by the 1540s, the expression at random rushed towards “without aim or purpose,” a short step from the modern adjective, which settled in by the 1650s.
Random didn’t come into English at random. It derives from the Old French randon, a similar noun denoting “speed, haste, violence, impetuousness,” probably formed from the verb randir, “to run fast, gallop.” The deeper origins of randir aren’t certain, but scholars conjecture the Frankish *rant, “a running.” (Frankish was a West Germanic language spoken by the Franks, a Germanic tribe in late antiquity whose name lives on in France and the adjective frank.) This *rant, and thus random, may be related to the same Germanic root that gives us run.
The statistical random emerges by the 1880s, but the word wasn’t done running. Computing, campus, and teen slang in the 1960–80s helped fashion a random, a “stranger” or “outsider,” sometimes shortened to rando, as well as the informal, often pejorative use of random for “odd, peculiar, unexpected, unfamiliar,” e.g., Don’t go home with that random guy. Definitely run–at the etymological random–from him.