Non-Fiction Monday: The Etymologicon

Who the f*** came up with that

Have you ever wondered why on earth certain words are so similar to others, why we use phrases like “the cold shoulder” and where do they come from. Who makes up these things. Come on, I may be in the minority but I know a few of you ponder these things whilst going about life. Well Mark Forsyth’s book the Etymologicon explains exactly this and more. With that in mind here’s a list of the strange and wonderful connections among the English language that especially appealed to me whilst reading this book:

  1. The Cold Shoulder- If a host cooks a nice warm dinner for you it is a sign you are welcome. A host giving you leftovers or a bad cut of meat such as a “cold shoulder” means unfortunately my friend you are not welcome.
  2. Humble pie- a pie in which was made using the umbles or innards of a deer. The rich may get the good cut of the deer such as venison. On the other hand poor servants were given the umble (therefore humble) pie.
  3. Folk etymology- Humble pie is an example of folk etymology. Similar to that of the well known flower “Fox Glove” in the more enchanted era many believed that folks and fairies lived among us. A type of flower resembled gloves only small enough for those very folk. As our present world became disenchanted people rationally changed the name folk gloves into fox gloves believing that this was the initial meaning anyways.
  4. Butterflies- in Malay they express a plural by repeating the word. Although this may prove problematic as in Malay, butterfly= Ramarama. So Butterflies= Ramaramaramarama
  5. Hun- In 1806 Hun meant destroyer of beauty. Something to keep in mind when exchanging niceties.

Those were a few amusing and interesting facts I took from the book. Perfect for improving my dinner party talk and seeming unquestionably intellectual as I sip a cocktail. ( I don’t go to dinner parties or drink cocktails.)

This is the first post in the series “Non- fiction Mondays” as I share what non-fiction books I have read during the week and what facts stood out to me. A post for me as much as for you!