This is our final look at words with interesting origins.
‘Interesting’ is probably an understatement here because some of these origins are just utterly bizarre rather than just plain interesting.
So you will probably know the words here but did you know where they came from?
paraphernalia was originally used to describe
a woman’s personal possessions which
did not form part of her dowry. It comes from
Late Latin paraphernālia, from Greek
para, beside, beyond, and phernē, a dowry.
porcupine comes from Old French porc espin,
a ‘spiny pig’.
pupil in the sense of ‘the round opening
in the eye’ has a similar etymology to the
sense of ‘someone who is being taught’. The
Latin words pūpillus and pūpilla are
diminutives of pūpus boy and pūpa girl, and
the idea comes from the small image of
oneself to be seen reflected in someone’s eye.
salary originates in Latin salārium, salt-money,
from sāl, salt (money given to Roman
soldiers to buy salt).
A scapegoat was originally a goat on which,
once a year, the Jewish high-priest
symbolically laid the sins of the people,
and which was then allowed to escape into
shampoo comes from Hindi cā̃pnā, to squeeze.
A slapstick was originally a double lath used
by a harlequin to make a noise like a slap.
snob was originally a slang term for someone
of low rank, or someone vulgar who shows off.
sobriquet is French, originally soubriquet,
a chuck under the chin (demonstrating
stationery comes from Latin statiōnārius,
a shopkeeper, which, in the Middle Ages,
meant a bookseller at a university, as
distinguished from an itinerant seller.
supercilious comes from Latin supercilium,
meaning ‘above the eyelid’ (from the habit
of raising an eyebrow to suggest disdain).
tawdry comes from St Audrey
(ie Æthelthrӯth, daughter of Anna, king
of East Anglia), who thought a tumour in
her throat a punishment
for having worn jewelled necklaces.
trivia comes from Latin trivium, a place
where three ways meet, from trēs, three,
and via, a way.
tulip comes through Old French tulipe from
Turkish tulbend, turban (referring to the
shape of the flower).
ventriloquist comes from Latin ventriloquus,
a person who speaks by a spirit in the belly.
walrus comes from Dutch, and means ‘whale horse’.
zany comes from Italian zanni, the Venetian form
of Gianni or Giovanni, John, which
was a name given to comic servant characters
in the commedia dell’arte.
Next week we look at a bumper batch of 39 words…no definitions this time because it is when they appeared which is important here.
* All words in this blog post have been supplied by The 12th edition of The Chambers Dictionary. ISBN 97805501002379