Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Aren't Words Fascinating?

Something a little different this week - a glimpse into Etymology, which looks at the origins of common words in the English language - words we usually take for granted, but which often come into standard use through oblique and unusual routes.

This is not to be confused with Entomology - 'the study of insects', which is also a useful tool for the crime writer! Who knows when you're going to need to have your fictional pathologist scrutinise those burrowing larvae, in order to determine the time of death of your corpse?

Anyway - maybe I'll look at forensics another time! Here are three random words I've chosen:

Image: Microsoft
Word: Junk
Definition:  Discarded material, such as glass, rags, paper, or metal, with little or no value. 
Origins:  In 1338, junke or jonke was a nautical term for old ship's cable or rope, from the old French jonc or junc which means rush or reed. The original nautical meaning of junk meant any old piece of rope cut up and used to make fenders and gaskets etc (from Pepe's Diary in 1666). Later the meaning included discarded refuse items from boats and ships, such as sold in marine stores (1842), which led to the term junk dealer.

Marilyn Shea 2005
Word: Kowtow
Definition: To show servile deference
Origins: In 1804, koo-too was the Chinese custom for touching the ground with one's forehead to show respect or submission, taken from the Chinese word k'o-t'ou which literally means to knock the head! First recorded in English as an act of slavish submission in 1834.

Word: Laconic
Definition: using or marked by the use of few words; terse of concise.
Origins: First recorded in the English language in 1583, via Latin from the Greek Lakonikos, relating to the inhabitants of Laconia, the region of Greece of which Sparta was the capital. The Spartans, noted for being warlike and disciplined (hence the adjective 'spartan'), were also known for the brevity of their speech and laconic became an adjective reflecting this quality from 1589.

A little taster of the richness of our language!

Information from:  http://www.thefreedictionary.com, Chambers Dictionary of Etymology.

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AJ Waines is the author of Psychological Thrillers:  The Evil Beneath and Girl on a Train.
Both books went to Number One in 'Murder' and 'Psychological Thrillers' in the UK Kindle charts.

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