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N, in language.

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1170601.  Tue Jan 19, 2016 10:23 am Reply with quote

I wanted to share some examples from a beautiful book I have just purchased, called ‘The Graphic Lexicon”, by Jim Sutherland.

Acne: "Acne is usually assumed to come from the Greek 'acme', meaning peak/summit, by way of a clerical error that switched the M for an N. In this instance it does not, in fact, refer to the shape of the spot, but rather reaching the peak of adolescence or puberty. However, it appears the first common use of the word was the variant 'achne', meaning loose surface material." So while 'acme' came first, it's not the origin- and sadly, there was no M/N switch up.

News: "An erroneous theory exists that ‘NEWS’ is an assimilation of the points of a compass, possibly propagated by a Benjamin Disraeli speech in 1855: News is that which comes from the North, East, West and South, and if it comes from only one point on the compass then it is a class publication and not news. 
However, it is far simpler: News is just the plural of New, which dates back to Proto-Indo-European language."

"The word Odd comes from the old Norse ‘Oddi’, meaning point, blade or triangle- which logically must have three sides (an un-even number)." Oddly, Odd is also the 11th most popular name in Norway.

Naughty... "The orchid used to be known as ballockwort, until it was changed to orchid from the Greek ‘orkhis’, meaning testicle." If you take a look at the orchid’s bulbous twin tubors, you may understand the etymology...
From ballocks to testicles, at least now you know to never let anybody mess with your orchids.

Similarly, ‘Avacado’ comes from the Aztec ‘ahuacati’, meaning testicle.

Where is Utopia? Nowhere.
"Thomas More coined the phrase in 1516 in reference to an imaginary island. The word comes from: ou, ‘no’, and topia, ‘place’."

Noel-ish (weak “n” connection, but I love this):

When you abbreviate Christmas to Xmas, you are not, in fact, mutating the word Christ into a crucifix, or creating something can can read similarly (I always sort of assumed it was because cross-mas was almost a homophone.) This abbreviation has been used for over 1000 years, and it comes from the Greek- where X is the letter for Ch. "So when you write Xmas, you should read it ‘Chmas'."

Likewise, not very “n”-ish:
Do you remember learning the alphabet, and reading the middle section as one long sound: ‘ellemenohpee’? Well Ampersand has a similar origin. In traditional recitals, any letter that could also double as a word would have the prefix ‘per se’, meaning ‘by itself’. "So the alphabet began ‘A per se A’ (as in the letter A, and the identifier A, i.e. A cat), and ended with ‘X, Y, Z, & per se And’." If you read aloud ‘& per se and’, it’ll all fall into place.

"The word Arctic comes from the Greek ‘Arktikos’, meaning ‘Northern’ (itself from ‘Arktos’, meaning bear, from the Great Bear constellation near the North Pole.)"

Last edited by alicecd24 on Thu Jan 21, 2016 6:51 am; edited 5 times in total

1170627.  Tue Jan 19, 2016 11:52 am Reply with quote

alicecd24 wrote:
Where is Utopia? Nowhere.
Thomas More coined the phrase in 1816 in reference to an imaginary island. The word comes from: ou, ‘no’, and topia, ‘place’.

Either a typo or you're a few years out - Utopia was published in 1516.

The association with paradise comes from the conflation with "eutopia". "Eu" means "good" in Greek (cf. eudaimonia).

1170630.  Tue Jan 19, 2016 11:56 am Reply with quote

Zziggy wrote:

Either a typo or you're a few years out - Utopia was published in 1516.

Oop, you're right. I was quoting directly from Mr.Sutherland's book, which states 1816.

(Come to think of it, I did think it was strange: my favourite childhood film, Ever After, mentions the book Utopia and was set in 16th Century France- I just assumed it was a continuity error! Silly me.)


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