Some more wor d’oeuvres

Hi! Here’s the latest:

1. “Gossip” comes from two words you’d recognize: “God” and “sibb” (relative, as in “sibling”)–so, basically the godparent of your kid, meaning someone you are super close to and to whom you would presumably talk alllllll the shit. And thence the verb.

2. Honduras means “depths.”

3. “Tentacle” and “tentative” have the same Latin root: tentare, “to feel” or “to try.”

4. álamo means “poplar”, and indeed what we now know as The Alamo had a whole different saint-based name for much of its life as a mission; in the 19th century it got this tree-based nickname.

5. “Stool” as in “chair” and “stool” as in “poo” are indeed related. The latter came from the former, which started elegantly meaning throne, fell very far to mean “privy,” and then came to mean its contents.

6. Maelstrom is the name of an actual famous whirlpool off the coast of Norway. It’s Danish but started as Dutch for “grinding-stream.”


That’s it for now! ♥️

Oh but here’s some words about why sharing these kinds of things matters to me:

They are instances where I experienced some combination of curiosity and wonderment, which I do believe are meaningful in their own right. But also: language is something everyone uses but that not everyone feels belongs to them. That’s by design; convincing people with less power that their language or use of language is lesser (pronounced weird or wrong, “broken,” easy/hard to learn, etc) is a way to maintain power. And, viewing language as something both mysterious and immutable (which ambient prescriptivist tendencies encourage) keeps us at a remove from it, and makes us vulnerable to dispossession. Language is sometimes mysterious in the sense of magical, but it is rarely inscrutable: we can figure out where words come from, almost always. And it is mutable af! We’re all changing it all the time, and both reflecting AND creating the world by how we use it, and when we know a bit about how it works, we can do that in ways that make the world better.

ok bye!

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