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Origin of words
Transcript of Origin of words
Companion - Honeymoon - Perturbed Words are not dead things. They are fairly wriggling with life.
They are the exciting and mysterious tokens of thought and like
living beings, they are born, come to maturity, grow old, and die,
and sometimes they’re even reborn in a new age. A word, from its
birth to its death, is a process, not a static thing. Words, like living trees, have roots, branches and leaves. The story of the root of a word is the story of its origin.
The study of origins is called etymology, which in turn
has its roots in the Greek word etymon, meaning “true
or original meaning”, and the Greek ending –logia, meaning
“science or study,” So etymology means the science or study
of true or original meanings. Every word is a frozen metaphor, a frozen picture.
It is this poetry behind words that give language its
overwhelming power. And the more intimately we
know the romance that lies within each word, the
better understanding we will have of its meaning. For example, on certain occasions you will probably say that you have “calculated” the cost of something or other. What does the term calculate really means? Here is the story. Millennia ago, ancient Romans had an instrument called a hodometer, or “road measurer” If you had hired a two-wheeled Roman vehicle to ride, say, to the Forum or the Senate, you might have found in the back a tin can with a revolving cover that held a quantity of pebbles. This can was so contrived that each time the wheel turned the metal cover also revolved, and a pebble dropped through a hole into another receptacle below. At the end of your trip you counted the calculus, for that was the Latin word for pebble, and calculated your bill. There are, of course, many words with
much simpler histories than this.
When you speak of a surplus, for instance,
you are merely saying that you have a
sur (French for “over”) plus (French
for “more”) or a sur-plus, i.e, you have
an “over-more” than you need. Should you be in a snooty mood for the nonce, and happen to look at someone rather haughtily, our friends might call you supercilious, a word that comes from the Latin supercilium, meaning that “eyebrow” you just raised.
The leader of a column of Roman soldiers was called a columna that gave orign to the word colonel; and the word caput (“head”) derived the word captain.
These are the roots of words. We next come to the branches. The branches are those many groups of words that have grown out from one original root.
For example the Latin rood spectare, which means “to look.” Over 240
English words have sprouted form this root. Spectator, spectacle, respect
(the tribute you give to a person you care to look at again), inspect (to look into).
When you treat someone with disrespect, you make it plain that you do not care
to look at him again.
The word graphein, “to write” is another prolific source of words. Telegraph
(writing from a distance), phonograph (writing by sound) photograph (writing by
means of light), stenographer (one who condenses writing), and mimeograph
(to write a copy or imitation). From the Latin spirare (to blow or breathe)
we got perspire (to breathe through), respiration (breathing again) inspire (breathe into), expire (breathe out).
These, then are the branches. We turn now to the leaves. If the roots are the origins of words and the branches are the families that stem out of them, the leaves of this language tree would be the words themselves and their meanings.
Undoubtedly, each given word only had one meaning, in the beginning. But words are so full of life that they are continually sprouting the green shoots of new meanings.
Let’s take the simple three-letter word RUN. How many meanings can you think for this word?
The blue in his jeans is running.
Jean’s stockings have a run.
She has run up a bill that she may not be able to pay.
The clock is running down on her.
She runs her father’s business now.
She has the run of the mill now.
She may run it into the ground.
And of course there is the run in baseball, the run of a race, the run of a campaign.
Is it any wonder that an unabridged dictionary contains hundreds of thousands of living and usable words, words sparkling with life, prolific in their breeding, luxuriant in their growth, continually shifting and changing in their meanings?
From this time on, try to become keenly aware of words. Look at them, if possible, with the fresh eyes of one who is seeing them for the first time. If you can do this, then you’ll be on your way to the success that can be had with a more powerful vocabulary. Homework
Try and find out the stories behind the expressions:
To chance your arm
Rain cats and dogs
He is a big wig.
It is Greek to me.
He was hoodwinked by her.
She got her pound of flesh. How many words can you think of that come from the Latin PAX meaning "peace" Pacific
NONCE = the present or particular occasion SNOBISH TO WRIGGLE
1. to twist to and fro; squirm.
2. to move along by twisting and turning the body, as a worm or snake. To sprout
to begin to grow; shoot forth, as a plant from a seed. Latin: cum = with
panis = bread The one who eats bread with you