Today I was thinking about words. Specifically, how much I love them, and how much I love etymology. You’re all brilliant beyond compare and know exactly what that means, but I know (through my insane obsession with my stats) that I get a lot of high school kids who want me to do my homework for them round these here parts, so for you, you cheaty high school kids, etymology is the study of the history and origin of words and how their use and meaning has changed over time. I find etymology fascinating. I love words; the words we currently use, the words we used to use that have dropped out of favor, either because they’re no longer of use because technology has advanced (you don’t drop “zeppelin” in conversation too often nowadays, now do you? I mean, I suppose unless you’re talking about the band) or just because life moved on and the word became forgotten (for a kickass list of these, check this site out; so many gorgeous words we no longer use! Bonifate! Celeripedean! Diffibulate!)
I love that sometimes I’ll mention that I found a lovely German word or French word or word in another language that just looks beautiful and Andreas will tell me what he knows about that word in Swedish and sometimes it’s funny that it’s so similar and sometimes there are awesome diacritical marks that make me grin like a looney.
Words just utterly amaze me. In another life, I’m pretty sure I should have been an etymologist. Is that a thing? Is that a job someone does and gets paid for? Why the hell didn’t I go in for that? I would have RULED at that.
What’s that? Did another shooting happen today which caused me to have a half-hour crying jag? Maybe so. Maybe just so. STOP SHOOTING PEOPLE FOR THE LOVE OF PETE. I have people I CARE about in Texas. What if one of my people had been walking by randomly and you shot them? And even if you didn’t shoot any of my people, you shot SOMEONE’S people! Ugh, stop it stop it STOP IT. I’m going to seriously hide under my bed until this all stops. What’s that? It never stops? Well, I guess someone’s going to have to bring me my meals under there, then.
Anyway, I was looking up happy etymology and found the following four things which made me smile. Also, were you aware that like 97% of our words have German origin? I totally made that up, but it’s a lot, yo. This is another reason it’s very important I have a German assassin friend. He can help with things like etymology. And, well, assassining, I suppose.
Sample sentence: My dad is quite sure Ken’s an assassin.
According to this fun website, assassin has QUITE the history as a word. Apparently, assassins started out as Muslims, who were hired to attack Christian enemies. (If my dad knew this, he would nod knowingly and say “THAT’S WHAT THEY DO” because he thinks everyone’s a terrorist that’s not a Christian. Believe me, it’s not worth arguing about, you’re not changing his mind.) So in order to get all fired up to perform their assassiny assassinings, the assassins (who, at that time, were not yet KNOWN as assassins!) would toke up on large quantities of hashish, like the caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland.
The killers therefore were called “hashshashin” (or on another site I found, “hashshashim”) which meant “people who ate or smoked hashish.” See how that sounds like assassin? Is that not the most interesting? The answer to that question is YES IT IS. Also, I think old-timey assassins must have been equal parts more scary and easier to escape. More scary, because they’d be all unpredictable and drugged-up, but also easier to escape because from what I remember from old movies about the people in hash dens, they were all moving in slow-motion and their eyes were half-closed, so you could probably hide under a table and the hashshashin would never find you and then wander off somewhere else and eat some brownies or something. Also, hashish is BAD NEWS. Didn’t you all see that sad movie Return to Paradise with Joaquin Phoenix? ZOMG it made me cry all the tears.
Sample sentence: One of my favorite foods ever is an avocado, but now that I know where the name came from, I feel kind of filthy.
According to Wikipedia (dear Wikipedia, before you existed, how did we? Exist, I mean?), avocado comes from the Spanish word aguacate (which I had to research ALL BY MYSELF, thanks, Wikipedia, but because I love you, I did it, and it means, well, avocado) and, in turn, the Spanish word came from the Nahuatl word ahuácatl. And guess what THAT means? Guess. No, seriously, guess. Testicles. AVOCADOS WERE NAMED AFTER TESTICLES YOU GUYS! Is that not the most fun factoid ever? And apparently, since they look SO MUCH LIKE TESTICLES (now, seriously, I’m not saying I have ALL the experience, but I’ve seen some danglies, and…um…they weren’t this big? Or shaped like this? Or, well, hell, green? Was I doing it wrong? Were the guys I was with genetic aberrations?) avocados were worshiped as “the fertility fruit” by the Aztecs. Well, I don’t know about them being “the fertility fruit” but I think they’re sexy as hell. They have a very sexy silky texture in your mouth. So, yeah, I’d totally want to make out if some guy fed me some avocados. I’m not saying I’d turn that down.
Sample sentence: I never wanted to be an astronaut when I was little, because aliens made me nervous, yo.
This isn’t a long one (THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID); it just made me smile. Astronaut is two Greek words combined. “Astron” means “star” and “nautes” means “sailor.” Aw, you GUYS! Star sailor! How awesome is THAT?
Sample sentence: sj hates cole slaw the most. (She really does.)
Before I start with this, I just have to say: I am very torn on cole slaw. VERY TORN. I like some cole slaw so, so much – like, I could eat GALLONS of it – and some of it I hate so much I want to throw it out the window. The worst part is: I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT MAKES ME LIKE OR DISLIKE CERTAIN VARIETIES OF COLE SLAW. I don’t think it’s the veggies. I’m pretty sure it’s the dressing, but I don’t know what’s IN the dressing I’m so offended by. Like, I used to love (shut up, I never said I grew up classy) Dairy Queen cole slaw. I could have eaten that for breakfast, lunch and dinner and never gotten tired of that.
However! My mom’s cole slaw? I hate that so much it makes my head ache. I can’t even take a bite. And my mom’s cooking is fantastic. I don’t know, either. ANYWAY. Apparently, we stole Dutch words to make our cole slaw: “cole slaw” is just Dutch for “cabbage salad.” But in Dutch, the words are actually “kool sla.” Hee! We should have stuck with that, because I like the idea that the word “kool” would have been in regular rotation as something other than a weird cigarette advertised on the back of the TV Guide.
I wanted to research fun things for Ken like mustard and cheese and euphemism but their history was totally the most blah. That made me sad. I suppose I could make up a fun history for them, like “mustard” was from the Spanish “mus” which means “zesty mouth food” and “tard” which means “yellow condiment” or something but it would be a flat-out lie. I even tried to find the etymology of the word goat for Ken because you’d THINK that would have some sort of fun etymology because goats are the BEST but the most interesting fact I could find is maybe the word has roots in the Slavic or Sanskrit word for “jump” and that’s kind of fun, but mostly the root of the word goat is just various versions of the word “goat” in other languages and that’s not whimsical at ALL. I also wanted to find fun Swedish etymology for Andreas but the internet is so not being helpful. I did find this page of “commonly used German words in English” and it made me laugh and laugh because yes, yes I often drop “Rollmops” or “Flatterzunge” in my day-to-day conversations with people, Wikipedia. (ZOMG Flatterzunge. That’s like my new favorite word.) It’s like you KNOW me! Are you spying on my conversations? You tricky website! (Are you guys using these in your conversations with people? Should I be? Now I feel like I’m left out of some sort of super-fancy conversations.)
I did learn that “fruit” came from the Latin “frui” meaning “to enjoy” which is just rude to those of us who hate fruit. YES. All TWO of us who hate fruit. There are two of us, because I know someone else who doesn’t like it, too. SO THERE.
Thank you, words! You are my favorite and have taken my mind off ickiness for like two whole hours. Well, the avocado thing was a little icky, but also kind of whimsical, so I forgive you, words. I forgive you.