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.
It’s April 20, or as many marijuana enthusiasts know it well, 4/20. Today, especially when the clocks strike 4:20pm, many people will light a joint or smoke a bowl in celebration of the herb. Contrary to all the myths about police codes, the number 420 is variously used to refer to marijuana thanks to a group of Bay Area high-schoolers who would meet at a campus statue after school at 4:20pm to get high and hunt for a secret patch where marijuana plants were growing. The time later went on to become a codeword for marijuana or getting high itself.
That’s the origin of 420. But what about the origins of the day’s honoree, marijuana, and some of its many related terms? I think this calls for a hit of etymology.
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.
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?
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.