Etymology Scrapbook / Teaching / Scholarship /

Cute etymology of Yankee. Cecil Adams cites some cute etymologies from HL Mencken.
2016 02 26 His Straight Dope has others too. Today’s mail-around highlights a good’un on the word cocktail“.

2012 05 25

Anon In search from A to Z they passed,
And “Marguerita” chose at last;
But thought it sound far more sweet
To call the baby “Marguerite.”
When grandma saw the little pet,
She called her “darling Margaret.”
Next uncle Jack and cousin Aggie
Sent cup and spoon to “little Maggie.”

And grandpapa the right must beg
To call the lassie “bonnie Meg.”
From “Marguerita” down to “Meg,”
And now she’s simply “little Peg.”

When I was an early teen jazz freak I was so proud of my command of hipster lingo as picked up from Down Beat Magazine, Jazzbo on the radio, and later, MF on the radio … Then at Columbia I met others who talked the same talk, skillfully: on Long Island, in church camp, I’d been the only one! But by the time I was out of the army and in grad school I was happy to learn that we weren’t all born yesterday, that things have histories, sometimes old histories. I like Eve better at 150,000 years old than I liked her at 6,000 years old. Well, one article traced much hip talk to West African and the slave trade: hep, hip, cat, bug, jazz … at least several hundred years old, maybe much much older.
And old new word just came to me: “gangsta.” I suddenly remembered drug dealer / junkie jazz basist Bobby Fractur telling Myron, who’d just introduced us, that Bobby had been living downtown with bassist Wilbur Ware, jazz legend. “Wilbur Ware is a gangsta!” Bobby intoned. That would have been 1958, maybe 1959. And here are these ghetto kids in Detroit etc thinking they’re using a new word newly: or, an old word with a new mispronunciation, a new set of attributes.

(A couple of months later, Bobby was dead, murdered, probably, maybe by his roommates downtown, who knows, maybe by his host. All these junkies crowded together like rats, like Nazis, murdering each other, all paranoid.

I posted something on Etymology, 2005.11.13 at IonaArc. Today I want to add something else: so I do them here, moving the one, and posting the other.
2013 11 22 I make a new post, Etymologies, exampling particular etymologies, and link it from the Scholarship menu.

Babble on particular etymologies:


What a complex word. I’ve know “frank” to mean “free” since first reading Chaucer in the Middle English. Today I see an etymology in the Straight Dope:

(1) The basic meaning of frank is free, as in frank discussion. This comes from the Franks, as in Charlemagne, King of. The Franks, being the dominant people in their neck of the woods, were the only ones with full freedom and their name became synonymous therewith. The Slavs, on the other hand, were the regional doormat and their name eventually evolved into “slave.”

This anarchist, this deschooler, this founder of the Free Learning Exchange, that is, this 1970 offerer of a prototype internet, all subsequent internet activity being at least partially plagiarized from me (and Ivan Illich), loves the implicit emphasis there between ideas of freedom and associations with social and economic dominance.

Politics is the opposite of freedom (in my preferred sense). Freedom comes only with nature; not with civilization.

The Franks were an alpha invader, one of the many Germanic tribes that swept over Europe and Asia. That’s like the tax collector is free, the tax payer a slave. I want the tax payer not to pay taxes, the tax collector not to be able to afford to cross the street. These are all metaphors: with freedom, there would be very few streets. There would be animal paths widened by human traffic; but not super highways, no right of way, no emminent domain: no church bulldozed for the thruway.

Achilleus was free to raid Troy: should he have been? Only if we think the past was automatically right. If you see that we’re in a mess, maybe you’ll also see that the past was likely wrong, on lots of things.


About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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