Saturday, February 03, 2007

I love etymology

Paleoweltschmerz - word imported from German into English and which refers to the theory that dinosaurs became extinct through sheer boredom with the world.

Jubilee - from the Hebrew yobhel, meaning trumpet. Originally all slaves were emancipated every 50 years in a ceremony proclaimed by trumpets. This 50-year cycle eventually became a jubilee.

Slogan - derived from the Gaelic sluagh-ghairm, literally meaning army call or an Irish battle cry.

Bizarre - derived from the Basque word bizar, meaning beard. Bearded Spanish soldiers fighting in France made a strange impression on the locals, who used the word bizar to show how odd these soldiers looked. Bizarre was then "borrowed" from French into English and a word that originally meant beard came to mean strange.

Penguin - from the Welsh pen gwyn, meaning white head. This was originally used by Welsh sailors for the great auk, a now extinct bird similar to the penguin found in Newfoundland that had a white spot in front of each eye.

-- Source "Much Ado About English" by Richard Watson Todd

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