Friday, April 14, 2006

Word Origins

Since I'm an etymology nerd, I found this MSN Encarta word origins quiz extremely fun. I don't know how many of you would actually take it, so I'm just pasting a few of the answers directly on my blog.
  • The word assassin is drawn from an Arabic word meaning "hashish user," and originally referred to a Syrian religious sect whose members were said to commit murders while under the influence of the drug.
  • The French word cliché refers to a printing plate, and imitates the sound made when a die strikes the metal plate used for printing. Like the word stereotype, cliché reflects both the physical process of printing and also the danger in carelessly reusing phrases and thoughts.
  • Parasite derives from the Greek work parasitos, meaning "one who eats from another's table."
  • Words can hurt. Sarcasm comes from the Greek word sarkazein ("to tear flesh"). Morbidly enough, the related word sarcophagus literally means "flesh-eater."
Thing I'm thankful for: my Oxford English Dictionary of Etymology and The Word Detective.


Blogger Lauren said...

Hmm. The "assassin" one is pretty interesting to me. Mostly because people that are on "hashish" are usually never violent but apathetic. Must have been some hardcore stuff.

And "sarcophagus" is cool, too. Makes sense because it envelopes the body like it's consumming it.

Aren't you thankful for friends that are also big nerds?

11:45 AM  
Blogger Sara said...

Yes. I AM thankful for friends who are big nerds like me. I heart nerds.

12:52 PM  
Blogger brian said...

The hashish angle really gets interesting with a fuller explanation. Expedia left out who the hashish eaters were, a secret society that specialized in political assasinations.

Sure, probably more than anybody wanted to know, but it's one of my favorite little etymology tidbits. I mean, middle ages Syria, secret societies, Saladin, Richard the Lionheart, accounts by Marco Polo...

If there weren't certain parallels between the hassassin and Al Quaeda, it would make for a cool bit of history. (Like back when Umberto Eco and Dan Brown wrote novels about them.)

6:25 PM  

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