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{Wortoid} Word Play, Episode 2: Written Edition


Hey there! In my previous Wordtoid Quick Post comments section I mentioned writing up a written companion piece for my next episode of the newly launched Word Play YouTube series. This will be a summation of what I talked about in the video, more or less, if you just feel like skipping to the wordy goodness (aka, don't feel like listening to me drone on about them).

Now for the words I discussed in this video:

Write: I left off the previous episode with the word Typewriter, but only talked about the word Type (which basically means Tap). Well, the word Write comes into English through older forms of German and basically means Scratch or Carve. This is a common word origin in other languages, such as the Latin Scribe and the Greek Graph.

Spade: To help make connections with other words, I often like drawing upon the cognate in modern English. A cognate is a direct descendent or relative of another word. In this case, Spade is directly related to Spoon. So a Spade is a type of shovel, and was often also used as a weapon. The playing card name shares the exact same origin and any relation to the color black is directly related to the suit color on playing cards.

Gun: This one's a bit fascinating. Gun is a truncation of a Norse female given name, Gunnhildr. This name would have been given to weapons of war (canons) in much the same way Big Bertha was a mighty canon in World War II and in a similar fashion to how ships are given women's names. Objectification notwithstanding, the actual name makes sense for a weapon. It comes from two Norse words for War and Battle. The closest cognates for each in English would be Bane and Holt. A Bane is a wound (and thence any kind of opposition to something), and a Holt is an archaic English term for woodlands. Both words can be broken down further to mean Strike and Hit. A wound results from a strike, and woodlands full of trees that you hit when harvesting. These kinds of bendy windy sense transitions happen all the time.

Ammunition: Another word with a story, this one is involved in a slight error. Originally La Munition in Old French, it was misspelled as Amunition and this has carried down to modern English. It comes from the Latin Murus meaning Wall, with the English cognate being Mural, and later the sense grew to mean a fortification, then any supplies found within a fortification, and today only meaning the stuff discharged from guns.

Virgin: A Latin euphemism for a woman of the youngest marriageable age, originally meaning a young sprout or sapling or twig. Modern cognate would be Virgule, which typographers would recognize as the slash / or pipe | on a keyboard.

Unicorn: A simple Latin word, in two parts meaning One and Horn. The C in place of an H is common, and can be seen in other words with similar histories like Carrot (a horn-shaped vegetable).

Ink: One of my favorite from this episode, this one can be traced to the Greek word Enkaustos. It can be broken into the prefix En- meaning In, and Kaustos which has the cognate Caustic (something that burns). It originally meant a kind of designing or writing that involved a burning process, but later would refer to the melting of ingredients used in making writing fluid, and thereby we get the modern use of the word.

Square: From the Latin Exquadra, from prefix Ex- meaning Out and Quadra meaning Four. It carried the notion of "to complete" or "make finished" on the aesthetic appeal of a square as a completed (and even) form.

Ladder: A German word that essentially means Lean, because that's what a ladder does! It's also distantly related to Greek words like Climax and Incline.

Bishop: Another Greek word, this one traces back to Episkopos with the modern cognate of Episcopal (of or related to the Church). The word is comprised of prefix Epi- meaning Over and Skopos meaning Sight. Essentially it means Overseer, and it wasn't initially a religious title. And since this word was chosen because of a bishop chess piece I pick up in the video, I also looked into the history of that piece's name. It was originally supposed to be an elephant, the deep groove in the piece was meant to resemble tusks but would be mistaken for a mitre (a type of hat worn by the clergy).

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About Dr Melone of us since 10:58 PM on 01.31.2012

Hello, curious browser. I've been a reader of Dtoid for several years now and continue to enjoy the unique sense of community around these parts. I think I'll stick around, if ya don't mind.