Having grown up in a household where books outnumbered VHS 15 to 1 (hehehe VHS is soooo old), I was one of those kids that steams through books. I’m not sure whether my parents fed this addiction because they loved me, loved books, or a combo, but I don’t read much theses days due to, the frankly, exorbitant cost of all and anything I want to read. Yet having lived off books until I was sent away at 16 I happen to have an in-depth and utterly useless knowledge of etymology.
I while impart that useless/ful knowledge with you my itty-bitty pipple committee. First off, my sister the biologist doesn’t listen to me. Every time I say etymology she hears entomology which is the study of insects, she then proceeds to tell me details about the kind of bugs you get on a decomp of 3 days. With eyes watering and stomach churning I usually circle back to my original point. Etymology is the study of the origins, meaning, and changes in meanings of words. The word itself derives from the greek word aitiologia, which means to give reason. Now that I’ve shown what a smarty-pants I am let’s move on to some actual words that have interesting origins.
The first couple of words are of Roman origin and are used in similar situations as their original versions, however today they are less horrific. So, contestant number one, step forward:
Today decimate is used as a verb to indicate destruction, annihilation etc. Basically when some dictator goes batpoop insane they decimate the public. The origin of this little guy is pretty wrong, it made the transition from noun to verb. Weird, right? But it gets weirder, usually decimation would go down like this:
General- Guys, line up. So I heard you’ve been bitching about not getting paid in the last 5 years?
Soldiers- Yeah boss, that kind of sucks, also we haven’t been home in 10years, and we’re starving in the middle of Brittany instead of chilling in Umbria, what gives?
General- Okay fellas, I hear you, count of to ten, then send all the tens to me.
and so all the tens would be massacred in front of the remaining troops, now one tenth less than they had been a half hour ago.
That’s right Kiddos! Decimate was actually a practice carried out by your more ruthless Roman generals, it was used on your own troops as well as the enemy. As scare tactics go it was extremely effective, it kept the Germanic and Gallic hordes complacent, as well as keeping your own unpaid, unhappy centurions in line.
Phew, that was AWKWARD! Moving onto our next word.
These two words go hand in hand as they are from the same root.”Your honour, I call to the stand the defence witness to testify”. Means to attest, confirm or corroborate someone’s story, or facts. No biggy right? what could possibly be wrong here, OH GOD NO IT”S A NOUN THAT BECAME A VERB!!!!!!!
The origin here, is still used in the same sense, to corroborate a story. However back in 400B.C. the world was a place that took perjury seriously, and if you lied there were consequences, see my little historically inaccurate sketch below:
Imagine the imperial senate in the turmoil following Julius Ceasar’s untimely death, Marc Anthony asks Brutus where the hell he was when their buddy Ceasar was getting fitted with a Colombian necktie.
Marc Anthony: Brutus, you just stabbed Ceasar in cold-blood you gutless, heartless, ungrateful punk. What say you? What is your testimony?
Brutus: I totes didn’t stab Jules, man, he was like wasted, he fell on that dagger all 23 times, man.
Marc Anthony: really because we have DNA evidence, and Security Cameras that show you and your buds stabbity-stabbing him!
Brutus: Aw, crap!
Marc Anthony: Chop off Brutus’ balls for lying.
Testify and testimony, both come from one root word, testes. As being a citizen in Rome meant being a free MAN, yup, you had to be sure to be born free, or earn your freedom, and ensure you had the correct equipment from birth (hey ladies! Nice togas- get back in the kitchen and make me the Roman equivalent of a sandwich). Downside was, you could be called up for military duty, or be called up to testify in something you really didn’t want to. If you were found to be lying, you got the family jewels permanently confiscated and got kicked out of the senate. The truth will set you free, partner.
So the first two Roman words have been pretty violent, and very male oriented, so hows about a lady one?
F*ck, it’s like being back at school. Describe economy in one sentence… BLARG! so Economy can loosely be described as the system of a social group (family, country, state etc.) where goods and services are exchanged according to the demands and supply limits between participants of the economy. Basically I can’t be bothered to answer in any more detail than that. You know what it is. If not Google it, I’m not your Mom, don’t ask me dumb questions. So as I hinted at this has something to do with las chicas.
No shocks this time.
Unlike our other words, the etymology here is actually Greek, but watevs. So women in Ancient Greece, didn’t have it that better than women in Ancient Rome. If you were a free woman, you had the same rigths as an enslaved man. Woot Woot. Women could leave the house, but only with an escort of slaves, and only to go to Women-friendly places, such as the market, the water well, and the ladies baths. So not much of a social life. In fact most women stayed home.Which in Ancient Greek was called the Oikos, meaning household, house, or family.
As the women stayed home and dealt with the feeding, clothing, health of family members, although monetarily dependent on the husband they created the whole home domain, and the sign of a succesful man was if his Oikos allowed his family to live in good means. So yeah- no blood or guts here. Just ladies being conservative with money.
Ending this little piece on interesting etymology, one of the most prolific creator, or changer of words was good old Bill Shakespeare. The actual number of words remains debated but here are some things you wouldn’t be able to say without Billy-boys input into the English language.
-that zany guy is aroused by puking
-the accomodation is bloodstained
-my birthplace bedazzled your eyeballs
-the accused has a severe addiction to my little pony
So anybody know of some other words with cool roots?