Posted by: episystechpubs | December 9, 2015

Editor’s Corner: Dandelions, Dentists, and Winners!

I was so inspired by the season, that rather than just give away one book, Hold Me Closer, Tony Danza, I found two more books to give away to those of you who entered Friday’s contest. Here are my random winners and the books you’ll receive:

· Elizabeth Law is our grand prize winner of Hold Me Closer, Tony Danza

· Ron Fauset wins I Judge You When You Use Poor Grammar [KC – And Ron, you know that’s the truth!

· Amy Wallace wins Signspotting: Absurd & Amusing Signs from Around the World

I hope you find the books enjoyable!

Today I have a couplet of words for you from Words of a Feather: A Humorous Puzzlement of Etymological Pairs, by Murray Suid. Our words for this Wednesday are dandelion and dentist.

Dandelion and Dentist

When they were growing up, future dentists—like most kids—probably puffed the seeds of the dandelion plant and made a wish or did some other folk incantation. That playful activity gives us a tiny hint about the etymological link between these two words.

The origin of dentist is fairly straightforward. The word comes to English via the French dent, “tooth,” which came from the Latin dens, “tooth.” You can glimpse variations of the Latin root in words such as denture and orthodontist.

Indentation is a metaphorical extension; originally it referred to notches cut into paired copies of a contract; matching up the tooth-like cuts showed that each copy was authentic. Later, the word was applied to the typographic notches indicating the start of paragraphs—for example, the indentation of the word indentation beginning the paragraph you are reading right now.

The same sort of metaphorical thinking led to naming the familiar dandelion weed. But there is a twist. The English word is a borrowing of the French dent-de-lion, literally “tooth of the lion” or “lion’s tooth.” To some folk botanist, the leaves of this ubiquitous plant resembled the sharp teeth of the king of beasts.

As often happens when one language borrows a word from another language, the borrowers can’t say the word as it’s pronounced in the original language. Instead, they assimilate the foreign sounds to familiar sounds. So the elements dent-de, which in French sound something like “dawn –day” (pardon my French) came out sounding more like “dandy.”

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

619-542-6773 | Ext: 766773

Symitar Documentation Services

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