I love rhyme and always have, but my love of rhyme is part of a much larger umbrella love of words and language as a whole. One of the amazing things about words is that each one is the result of a long journey that is still on-going. They all hold personal histories and secrets. Here are my top ten favourite etymological journeys.
1: Curfew. Comes from French and it means ‘cover fire’. It is from the time when people would have put out the street lights manually, by covering the fire, so you’d need to be back before curfew!
2: Camp, in the sense of being effeminate, has a great one I read about a while back... camp comes from ‘campus’ meaning field in Latin, I think.
Back in the fucking day, soldiers needed a place to sleep and they would usually do it on a field, hence ‘camping’. Well, a few of the sex workers from the neighbourhood would come and try to get some business from the boys wouldn’t they? And to seem more appealing they would overdo their makeup to seem more feminine. So women who accentuated their femininity in that way were eventually described as ‘camp’, because they were always at the camps and then it hopped over to describe men who behaved in effeminate ways! (Intentional rhyme)
3: Quintessence. Quint + essence. From Latin Quinta, meaning 5th. The 5th essence, which was thought to be the ether, after water, earth, fire and air. The soul of the thing that makes things the most like the thing they are is quintessential.
4: The days of the week explained:
Monday = Moon’s day
Tuesday = Tiw’s day (Uru mythology god)
Wednesday = Odin’s day
Thursday = Thor’s day
Friday = Frigg’s day (Germanic Goddess, not a day of frigging)
Saturday = Saturn’s day
Sunday = Sun’s day
5: Our month ‘January’ apparently comes from the Roman god Janus, the god with two faces who looks forward and back: back into the previous year and forward into the new year.
6: The word ‘sniper’ comes from the bird ‘snipe’ which was a difficult bird to shoot for a gunman due to its camouflage and crazy flying. Anybody who could hit a snipe was a great marksman, hence someone who can hit a target from a great distance is a ‘sniper’.
7: Old school phonograms didn’t have volume control when playing music, so, to turn it down, you’d put a sock in it, which is apparently where we get the phrase.
8: APPARENTLY - a second is called a second because it is the SECOND division of an hour, the first being a minute. And minute is from Latin which means to be made small - as in an hour made small.
9: The word ‘alarm’ comes from Italian ‘all arme’ which is something you’d shout when the bloody British or whoever the fuck was coming up the hill. In English it’s ‘to arms!’ As in grab your guns! So next time your alarm goes off, could be fucking WAR mate!
10: The word pool comes from the french word poule which means ‘chicken’ and is also a relative to poultry. There was an old gambling game where people would throw stones and try to hit chickens because people were freaks back in the day. And they would put the money in the middle and the money in the middle became known as the poule because the game revolved around chickens (poule!!!) and that became ‘pool’ and that’s why we have a pool of money.