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:
Are you feeling a little hazy after 4/20? Maybe from some purple haze? No, no, I’m sure you were just listening to the Jimi Hendrix song. Well, you’re not alone, as the etymology of hazy is itself quite hazy.
Today in Georgia’s 6th congressional district, a closely watched “jungle primary” is taking place to fill the seat left by Republican Tom Price, who is now the Secretary of Health and Human Services.
In a jungle primary, a more colorful name for a blanket primary, all candidates seeking an office run against each other at once, as opposed to in separate primaries broken out by political party. The top two voters getters, regardless of party, then face off in a runoff election, except in some places like Georgia, where a candidate who gets a majority of votes wins outright.
While Washington state introduced blanket primaries in the 1930s, the phrase jungle primary emerges in the 1980s. The idea is that such a primary is like a cutthroat free-for-all, that “It’s a jungle out here.” But what about the word jungle itself? Where we do get this word from?
We’ve been sick with the word gas lately.
First, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad horrifically attacked, not for the first time, his own people with chemical weapons, likely sarin gas. Then, he “fake-newsed” the horrific act by calling it a fabrication. Meanwhile, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer—bizarrely, perversely—told reporters Hitler never gassed his people like Assad did before apologizing for his profoundly wrong statement.
It’s hard to make sense of this all, so—as this blog does in its own meager way—let’s try to make sense of it with the etymology of the word gas.
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 ∫
After a career chasing a major, Spanish golfer Sergio Garcia swung his way back to clinch the Masters Tournament on Sunday. When he sank his winning putt, Garcia warmly acknowledged his final contender, Justin Rose, and his caddie, before embracing his own, Glen Murray. For as they say, behind every great golfer is a caddie. But what’s behind the word caddie?
Hoity-toity is a very punchy way to dismiss someone as “arrogant” or “snooty.” But what’s so “superior” about hoity and toity?
Yesterday, British Prime Minister Theresa May triggered—as so many media outlets reported it—Article 50, which begins a two-year process of negotiations culminating in the UK’s exit, or Brexit, from the European Union. Let’s pull the etymological trigger on this truly historic word.
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.