How cool are words? You take twenty-six letters, create thousands of words and you have a language. Just. Wow.
Tonight, as I watched Olympic Men’s Volleyball (Brazil / Argentina), the commentator announced the score: Four-Love. That sent me wandering. Why do we call a score of zero – love? I’ve heard it all my life at tennis matches, but apparently today is the day I ask the question.
The word is not our word for love … not at all. It comes from the French l’oeuf – egg. Zero looks like an egg, so l’oeuf … and when English speakers got their lips around the word it became love. Awesome. Now I know.
My sister teaches fifth grade and one of the things she begins emphasizing to her students at this age is how language is developed from other languages. They look at the etymology of words – where words actually come from.
One of my favorite yearly expenditures is my subscription to Merriam-Webster’s Online Unabridged Dictionary. Not only do I get the entire definition, but synonyms and the origin of each word I look up. When I’m writing and editing, I spend an awful lot of time on this site. Sometimes I go there just for fun.
Okay, for instance, the word ‘word’ comes through the Middle English from Old English. And M-W takes us back through Old High German – wort, Old Norse – orth, Gothic – waurd, Latin – verbum, Greek – eirein (to say) or rhema (word) or rhetor (orator), Lithuanian vardas. All of that fabulous information that gives me a thick and fleshy understanding.
M-W also has a list of the most frequently looked up words in the past 7 days. So, on that list is misogyny. We all know that the definition is: a hatred of women. But I continued reading and discovered that its first known use was around 1656, which means this has been a problem for centuries (some men need to just get over themselves). But the dictionary tells me that this is a Greek word – misogynia. Gyne is the word for woman (from whence also comes gynecology). All of a sudden, a word that was simply a thought unto itself – hatred of women, leads me to consider all of the words that it is related to. It is no longer a singular unit, it is part of a much bigger thought. At least it is for me.
This is a rabbit hole I could slide into with ease. And please, I don’t want to be rescued.
By the way – the word ‘rescue’comes through Middle and Old French rescourre – to shake out, wrest away. But that comes from the Latin excutere – from quartere to shake. The dictionary tells me that there is more information at the word ‘quash.’
I do not need to get lost in this maze tonight. I’m so close to finishing Book 15. I’ll be done writing by this weekend and then I begin the re-writes (which there are often a lot) and editing. I’m on schedule and it feels pretty good.
I looked up the word ‘kiss’ because I wanted to use a picture of my kitties cleaning each other. Oh my goodness. Lots of languages have this word ‘kiss’ in them. Old High German – kussen; Old Norse – kyssa; Gothic – kukjan. All of these words lead back to the Greek word – kynein which through much insanity comes from Sanskrit – cusati, which means he sucks. Oh my.