Posted by: episystechpubs | December 26, 2014

Editor’s Corner: The Ninth Day of English

I hope you enjoyed the holiday! Just like English, our schedule is a little irregular. Here we continue with the ninth day of our “song,” on the 26th day of December.

On the ninth day of English

My true love gave to me

An article already written

For me.

The following nine words and their etymologies come from an article in Mental Floss about origins of English words that are related to animals. They aren’t partridges or turtle doves, but I think you’ll find these word histories interesting. Note: I have edited the list down to nine, but the original article contained sixteen words.

1. ARCTIC

The Arctic takes its name from the Greek word for “bear,” arktos. Oddly, the bear in question isn’t a polar bear but the Great Bear, or Ursa Major, the constellation that maintains a prominent year-round position in the northern sky. As a result, the adjective arctic originally referred to the celestial rather than the geographical North Pole when it first appeared in English more than 700 years ago. It wasn’t until the mid-1500s that it first came to be used of the northernmost regions of the Earth.

2. CANOPY

In Ancient Greece, a kanopeion—from konops, the Greek word for “mosquito”—was a chair or couch fitted with a mosquito net over it. As time went by, the name came to apply only to the net rather than the chair, which ultimately gave us the word canopy in the early 14th century. The French canapé is derived from the same root, and refers to the fact that a canapé’s filling sits on top of the pastry in the same way that a person sits on a couch.

3. CANTALOUPE

Cantaloupe melons take their name from Cantalupo, an ancient papal estate on the outskirts of Rome where the first European cantaloupes were grown in the early Middle Ages. In turn, Cantalupo took its name from the Latin words cantare, meaning “to sing” (as in chant and incantation), and lupus, meaning “wolf,” and probably originally referred to a place where wolves could often be heard howling or be seen gathering together.

4. DANDELION

Dandelion is a corruption of the French dent-de-lion, meaning “lion’s tooth,” a reference to the flowers’ jagged or “toothed” leaves.

5. EXOCET

An exocet is a type of marine missile first developed by the French Navy in the late 1960s. Its name is the French word for a flying fish.

6. FORMICATION

Formication is the medical name for a creeping, tingling sensation felt on the skin, similar to pins and needles, which takes its name from the Latin word for “ant,” formica; it literally describes a sensation similar to insects crawling over the skin. As a symptom, formication is associated with a whole range of conditions, from anxiety and general emotional distress to shingles, neuralgia, alcohol withdrawal, Parkinson’s disease, and even mercury poisoning.

7. HENCHMAN

The “hench”of henchman came from hengest, an Old English word for a horse. The term originally referred to a knight or servant who would accompany a nobleman on horseback on long journeys.

8. PEDIGREE

Although today it is used more generally to mean “lineage” or “heritage,” a pedigree was originally a genealogical diagram, like a family tree, showing relatives and their relations connected to one another by lines drawn from one generation to the next. It was these flat, broad, hooked lines that originally gave the pedigree its name, as scholars in Medieval France thought that they resembled a pied-de-grue—or a stork’s foot.

9. SNIPER

Dating back to the early 19th century, a sniper was originally someone who literally shot snipe. The birds have long been considered one of the hardest types of game to shoot due both to their speed in flight and their nervous disposition, making it necessary to shoot at them from a distance rather than risk disturbing them by moving closer.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

619-542-6773 | Ext: 766773

www.symitar.com

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