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Tag: etymology

bug out

bug out

brrr it’s been cold! i mean, what good is it when it gets this cold?


with the extended cold we had, it’s possible that those invasive insects could’ve been wiped out.

but first, a list of invasive terrestrial “animals” in minnesota:

Asian-Long horned beetle*

Brown marmorated stink bug*

Earthwormsย (!!!)

Emerald ash borer

Eurasian swine*

European Starling

Gypsy moth

Japanese beetle

Jumping worm

Mute swan*

Sirex wood wasp*

Walnut twig beetle*

first, let’s talk about the emerald ash borer, since it seems to be one of the big bad bugs i keep hearing about. it’s the reason you can’t bring firewood with you to campgrounds and have to pay $5 for 3 logs.

temps need to get to -20ยบ to begin to kill the borer, and at that point, about 50% of them die. around -30ยบ is when 90% of them will die. i think we can safely say sayanora to at least 50% of the EAB larvae in the state, more like 90%.

another bug that i would probably run away from, the gypsy moth, would suffer from some cold. temps of -20ยบ that lasts 48-72 hours kills exposed eggs, and alternate freezing and thawing in springtime can prevent hatching. i think we may have hit that -20 (or close to it).

in other entomological news, the beetle epidemic that was sweeping the black hills is over!

and while the bugs won’t be gone forever – they will eventually migrate back – this summer will give the people who manage invasive species time to implement a containment plan and basically start with a clean slate.

and since we’re talking entomology, let’s end with some etymology.

the word bug was formed in the early 1600s from the word bugge (beetle) which grew from two words: bugge/bugja/bogge and budde/budda/buddo.

bugge was a word for a hogoblin, bugja meant swolen up, and bogge meant snot. budde was beetle, budda was a dung beetle, and buddo means a louse/grub. sounds like they just took a bunch of gross things and smashed them into one word.

we say speak of the devil quite a bit – it’s become a part of everyday lexicon when you’re talking about someone and that person shows up.

but the phrase goes back to 1600s or even earlier. and it wasn’t meant lightheartedly, either, like we mean today. the full phrase is:

“speak of the devil and he will appear.”

it originated in england and it was pretty serious stuff. there was a superstitious belief that it was dangerous to mention the devil by name. at that time, it was like speaking the name of god. this is how all the devil’s nicknames came to be: prince of darkness, the horned one, etc. it seems like the clergy was a little more adamant about the situation than the general populace. no one actually thought the devil would appear, but it was considered unlucky.

that’s changed, though, and when we say speak of the devil, it’s usually a pretty ok thing to say and no one’s expecting the devil to show up.

though i’d be pretty stoked if the devil duck showed up.

word wednesday: palimpsest

word wednesday: palimpsest

i was rereading a book (codex) a couple weeks ago and ran across this word with very little context, and i knew i’d run across it before (not in the initial read), so i looked it up.

“a manuscript or piece of writing material on which the original writing has been effaced to make room for later writing but of which traces remain.”

i’d read it in ” a discovery of witches!” (which, i might add, i own a signed first copy of ….thanks liz! lol)

it’s greek in origin from the word palin for again and psestos for rubbed smooth.

i’m sure you could call other things palimpsets, but it made sense in pre-gutenburg times when paper was scarce and books were rare.

what are some modern day palimpsets? could old VHS tapes that you recorded TV shows on over and over work? there wasn’t much trace of the old shows, but it was again rubbed smooth.

maybe double-exposure photography would count. chalk or whiteboards definitely – when you can still make out words that have been erased. old hard drives that you think you’ve reformatted but someone steals and is able to pull all your old data from?

word wednesday

word wednesday

so i just learned this the other day whilst browsing reddit.

the word bear actually is derived from old english bera, meaning the brown one – this is common throughout norse, dutch, german, etc. it’s derived from greek and latin, which have the root for bear, but why do these languages call a bear just by its color?

well, olde timey hunters in the northern parts pretty much replaced the names of wild animals because of a taboo on names of wild animals. other names for bear were the good calf, honey pic, the licker, honey eater. there are also variations of calling it the wild.

bears were so stinking scary to hunters that they couldn’t even call it by its name.

i did some very brief research on native american words for bears and tried to look up some etymology on those. the closest thing i could find that was sort of similar was the ojibwe word mukwa for bear, which actually means great. so sort of the same thing – replacing it with a descriptor. although, isn’t that a lot of words we have, especially onomatopoeia words?

word wednesday: nostalgia

word wednesday: nostalgia

we all feel nostalgic from time to time, remembering events past or traditions or things that happened when we were younger. the halcyon days. days we remember fondly and look at through our rose colored glasses.
the word itself has greek origins (surprise surprise). it comes from the greek nostos, meaning homecoming, and algia, or pain. it was coined in the late 1600s from a translation of the german word heimweh for homesickness by johannes hofer. he was describing the depression he witnessed in swiss mercenaries who were longing to get home after service abroad. so there was always some pain involved in nostalgia.
which, when you think about, is probably true in the modern definition. it might not be as acute as the swiss were feeling, but there is always a sense of sadness when we think about the good old days. nostalgia really is a two-edged sword, combining the happy days and the knowledge that they’re in the past and not coming back.

word wednesday: sycophant

word wednesday: sycophant

today’s word of the day probably needs a definition for some people as well.
sycophant: a person who acts obsequiously toward someone important in order to gain advantage.
aka, a brown-noser. 
we have another greek background word today (like clew’s greek myth background).
it comes from the greek word sykophantes, which is a false accuser or slanderer, but is literally translated as someone who shows the fig.
showing a fig was probably akin to doing the ol’ ๐Ÿ‘‰๐Ÿ‘Œ emoji combination (or in real-life combination, as i remember witnessing for the first time on the dance floor at first street station on 18+ night in 1998. someone was trying to get lucky.) (yes, liz, that emoji combination is inappropriate. ๐Ÿ™„ ) showing a fig was sticking your thumb between two fingers (think “got your nose”), which resembles a fig. a fig in those days was symbolic of the female nether regions (for help, sykon also meant vulva).
of course the politicians of the day were too good for such gestures (if only DT held himself to such standards) but lustily urged their followers to taunt their opponents with them (well, that’s something DT would obviously do). so in modern day french and greek, it means just slanderer, but in english it means an insincere flatterer. this shift happened over time, mostly because it’s portrayed as a kind of parasite, speaking untrue things or accusing for the gain of the approval of another. 

word wednesday: clue

word wednesday: clue

colonel mustard with the candlestick in the parlor! 
the word clue has its origins in some greek mythology! remember theseus and the labyrinth? he went in there to find the minotaur, but daedalus told him he should make sure to get out again, so bring a spool of thread so he can find his way.
that spool of thread? it’s called a clew. hence, clue! 

an etymology break

an etymology break

i KNOW i wrote a post on the term jury-rig (aka jerryrig), but i think it got lost in the great blog migration of 2012. so i’ll repost since megan asked me about it, and i think it’s interesting!
jury-rigged goes back to the late 1700s when ships were out and about sailing the seas. when you’re out there, you only have so much to work with.

photo courtesy i put the duct tape on.

i’ve seen a couple backgrounds, one referring to a jory sail, from middle english for makeshift sale. it’s also referred to as a jury mast, which is a temporary mast after one’s been lost. by lost, i assume been torn off by the unforgiving sea. yarrr.
either way, seems like sailors had to do a lot of fixing on the fly, whether it’s the sail or the mast, and had to rig it up pretty quick, and i’d guess, a little haphazardly using what they had o hand to get things going. hence, jury-rig. 

ash wednesday etymology

ash wednesday etymology

this is not a true etymological post – more like an origin story. well, also some etymology.


being the good catholic girl i was, before i became a heathen, i made sure to make my way to ash wednesday, even though it is not a holy day of obligation (bet you didn’t know that!). i’d always assumed that ashes on your forehead were symbolically there because it was like dust, which is what they say when they cross the ashes. “remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” somehow this translates to “ashes to ashes; dust to dust” in my mind, which actually is an anglican prayer and never was in the bible.
the dust to dust thing comes from genesis: “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”
and ashes to ashes comes from the anglican prayer in this form: “Forasmuch as it hath pleased Almighty God of his great mercy to take unto himself the soul of our dear brother here departed, we therefore commit his body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life…” etc. etc. 
so really, there is no mention of ashes during ash wednesday – just dust. so where did the ashes come from?
a nice catholic website says they symbolize our mortality – somehow ashes=dust (hmmm). also that the tradition stems from the OT when sinners performed acts of public pennance. (were the ashes to let others know that these people were pennancizing?? not sure…)
but i like this explanation:
back in the early days of the bible, societies were pretty dependent on wood fires for everything – cooking, heating, etc. you have to keep the ashes in check when this is such a huge part of life. if a person was preoccupied with something big, say, a death or sickness or something pretty awful, the ashes and keeping clean of them were the least of their concerns. 
ashes became a sign that you were in mourning or remorse or repentance. this is actually written more than once in the bible:
 2 Samuel 13:19? “Tamar put ashes on her head and tore the ornate robe she was wearing. She put her hands on her head and went away, weeping aloud as she went.”
Esther 4:1-3: “When Mordecai learned of all that had been done, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the city, wailing loudly and bitterly.
Jeremiah 6:26: “Put on sackcloth, my people, and roll in ashes; mourn with bitter wailing as for an only son, for suddenly the destroyer will come upon us.
(there also seems to be a trend of sackcloths, as well, but i don’t see that making its way into ash wednesday services.)
so, it makes sense that during lent, when you are supposed to be subdued, fasting, repenting, and thinking about jesus dying for the sins of the world and all that jazz, that you start off by being remorseful with this traditional symbol.
i guess now the question is why does this need to be a public proclamation? from the background of this, the ashes were on your forehead because you were preoccupied. i’d guess you weren’t aware that you left the house covered with ashes, IF YOU WENT OUT AT ALL. those in mourning probably tended to stay at home. if you are truly remorseful, wouldn’t it be something personal and private instead of parading it around like a badge of honor? maybe that’s something to dig up another day.

you're a real fashion plate

you're a real fashion plate

i’m reading a book set in the late 1800s, and i ran across “fashion plate” yesterday, but not in any way i’d ever heard it used. she wrote that the subject was as still as a fashion plate. which, when i thought about what a fashion plate probably was, then it made sense. so i had to etymologize it and see what the deal was.

Fashion plate (1851) originally was “full-page picture in a popular magazine showing the prevailing or latest style of dress,” in reference to the typographic plate from which it was printed. Transferred sense of “well-dressed person” had emerged by 1920s. 

which makes sense now!
here’s a link to a fashion plate museum page with a history: