Monday, 11 April 2011

Word Stories!!!!

You absolutely cannot comprehend how interesting I find word origins. It's like a little short story that helps you learn interesting things! It's like history and anthropology and geography and english and knowledge ALL IN ONE!

Sarcophagus and sarcasm
These two words come from the same root word. CRAZY.
definition: sarcophagus: an ornate stone coffin or tomb
origin: This word is most commonly associated with ancient burials, and at those times, stone coffins had the reputation of devouring the flesh of corpses. Sarkophagos was the name Greeks gave to a type of limestone that cut from quarries. The name is a compound, from sark-, the stem of sarx, meaning 'flesh' and phagos, from phagein, meaning 'to eat'. Thus, sarkophagos and therefore sarcophagus literally means 'flesh eating'.
From a translation of a text from 1601, the reputed properties of the limestone is seen:
"...within the space of forty daies it is knowne for certaine to consume the bodies of the dead which are bestowed therein."
Look at all those now redunant 'e's! You're WATCHING ENGLISH PROGRESS. How exciting is that?! 

definition: sarcasm: a bitter, wounding comment
origin: The ancient Greeks had a verb, sarcazein, again, from sarx, 'flesh', and this verb meant 'to tear flesh like dogs'. Applied figuratively, it had the sense of 'to sneer' or 'to bite the lips in fury'. From this, came the noun sarkasmos, which meant 'a biting taunt'. Latin later had sarcasmus, which was taken into English in the sixteenth century - a lot of words happened then - as a scolding spirit Sarcasmus. In Anatomy of Meloncholy (1621) was written
"Many are of so petulent a spleene, and have that figure of Sarcasmus so often in their mouths ..."
I mean, I don't know what the spleene bit means, but it must be a pretty awesome insult.
In the seventeenth century, English borrowed the word again, this time from the French as sarcasme and was often used in the plural. It obviously adapted to our current word today.

 definition: a large ape
origin: This origin relies on the translation of an original text which was lost, but is to awesome to pass up. The original text was an account of a voyage, the Periplus or 'circumnavigation', written in Punic, but translated into Greek. When Hanno, the navigator, sailed the west coast of Africa in the fifth or sixth century BC, he returned with tales of an island inhabited by a tribe of incredibly hairy women who, he'd been told, were called Gorillai. In 1847 (so a long long long long time later), Dr. Thomas S. Savage, an American, discovered great apes while exploring West Africa and suggested the name Trogolodytes Gorilla, and it's possible that the very hairy women found by Hanno were actually just normally hairy Gorillas, which is a bit embarrassing for Hanno if true, and a bit embarrassing for the hairy women if not, who might still to this day be mistaken for apes.

definition: a murderer, usually of an important person
origin: In the eleventh century in Persia, Hassan ben Sabbah founded a fanatical sect of Islamic fundamentalists with the intention of controlling the Muslimm world through violence. He based the sect in the fortress of Alamut in Persia (now Iran), and he and then his successors became known as the Old Man of the Mountain. The sect opposed the dynasties of the time, and were also violent against the Crusaders in Nothern Syria. Over two hundred years, the sect developed and established bases of hill forts throughout Syria in order to perform brutal attacks of terrorism. The members of the sect were said to prepare themselves for these tasks by eating hashish, hence the sect's name hashshashin, meaning "hashish eaters". The English noun assassin, which appeared in the fourteenth century, is from this Arabic word.
It was theorised to have entered popular language when it was suspected that the French King, Phillip Augustus, started a rumour that Richard the Lion-Heart had tried to persuade the Old Man of the Mountain to send Assassins to France to murder him. This intrigue started gossip that could have started the word being used in common English speech.

Day 11 - A song from your favourite band:
Play Crack the Sky by Brand New
contains possibly my favourite ever song lyrics
I am the one who haunts your dreams of mountains sunk below the sea.

1 comment: