Every Word Tells a Story 4 - Devil, Damask and Doppelganger

Vocabulary Building


One way of building a broader vocabulary is to be vigilant for context clues. This way of keeping a lookout for clues contained within the sentence or the paragraph containing an unfamiliar word helps us to pick up meanings of new words in our language or in a new language.

By following the information contained within and by deducing the clues, we can arrive at a near approximation of the meaning of the word. Coming nearly close to the meaning is enough to save a trip to the Dictionary which can be distracting from reading the flow of the text. Of course, accessing a Dictionary or a Thesaurus is still the best option to consolidate the learnt word, but sometimes we have only have context clues to rely on.


Contextual Clues


Context clues are usually found more in text books rather than fiction writing. However many writers may drop them in if they have used a rarer word in their construction. For example, in the first paragraph I have used the word ‘vigilant’. If we then follow on to the next sentence I say ‘keeping a lookout’ which pretty much defines the meaning of vigilant.

contextual clues?
contextual clues?

This type of contextual clue is known as a Definition contextual clue. Can you spot the contextual clue in the next paragraph?

There are several types of contextual clues. The Synonym contextual clue contains a simpler version of the problematic or difficult word used along with it to indicate meaning. (Problematic or difficult )

Jason felt irate or angry at the incident.

The Antonym contextual clue gives the opposite meaning to the unfamiliar word.

Joe was keen to go to the pictures but Emma was reluctant .

The Descriptive contextual clue describes the word in a little bit more detail.

The Wicked Witch was malevolent . She was evil and did bad things to happen to people . She hated the princess with a passion.

A more elaborate form of Descriptive Clue can also be a Summary contextual clue where the writer may give several follow up sentences summarising the meaning.

Elaine had a precocious talent for computers and computing. She was able to use a laptop at the age of 5 and could surf the internet by six. She was able to use the various programs and software within a few months and designed her own website by the age of seven.

Contextual clues are a useful way of learning a new word and rather than skip past a new word, we can attempt to deduce it’s meaning contextually.

Let me tell you about 'D'...
Let me tell you about 'D'...

The Journey into 'D'


Now we move on to the letter D in our ongoing Journey....

There is a lot to pick from.

Do we delight in the colourful Daisies as we chase Dachshunds through the meadow?

Do we Decant some wine and drink it with Devil may care abandon?

Do we puzzle over the mystery of the 12th month of December having a name that means 10th?

Do we scare ourselves silly when we see someone or something that looks exactly like us out of the corner of our eye - a Doppelganger?

Sit comfortably and I will tell you the stories.


Daisies
Daisies

DAISY


Ah, Daisies. They belong to the family Asteraceae. This comes from the Latin 'Aster' - the root we met in our 'A' chapter. I ma sure you will remember that Aster means star. The more popular name Daisy, however, owes its origins to the closest star to earth, our sun.Daisies belong to a large genus with several subspecies that include marigolds, dahlias, chrysanthemums, zinnias etc..

The name for Daisy flower comes from the Anglo-Saxon words dæges ēage – this literally means the ‘days eye’ . The Latin name for the flower during Medieval times was ‘solis oculus ’ or ‘sun’s eye’. This perhaps referred to the fact that some species of Daisy open their petals only during the daytime and this reveals the central yellow disc like the opening of an eye. Thus the Day’s eye became Daisy. Easy, no?

Badger and Dachshund
Badger and Dachshund
Dachshund cutie
Dachshund cutie

DACHSHUND


It is not difficult to guess that this word comes from German. It has a Germanic guttural sound to it. Say it loud and curt- Dachs-hund .

Hund in German means hound or a dog. Dachs means a badger. The name actually means ‘Badger –Dog’.

With their narrow bodies and long noses, the Dachshunds had the unholy privilege of being used for badger hunting. They were able to burrow through the setts ( Badger homes) and sniff out the prey thoroughly or even grab them. I am not sure what they did to the poor badgers subsequently – this was perhaps done in the belief badgers harmed livestock. The poor badgers were depleted terribly due to the practice. Thankfully it doesn’t happen anymore (one hopes) and the dachshund can relax and be a nice home-hund.

Damask
Damask
Damascus
Damascus
Damask Loom
Damask Loom

DAMASK



There is a long tradition of cloth and material taking its name from the place of origin or trade. Damask is such a material/design. It was originally woven in ancient Damascus, when it was at its peak of trade and export before the 9th Century.


The unique pattern and reversible design gained popularity among Royalty and the rich. After the decline of Damascus, the design re-emerged in Medieval Italy often woven from silk in a shiny monochrome designs against a duller background. More colours were added later, including gold and silver to enrich the patterns and the weave.



The hand driven looms that weave Damask were in existence for a very long time. The Damask design still proves popular but one wonders if there is much hand –driven looms use d to make them currently. The design is also popular in wallpapers in late 19th century.

CLOTHS FROM PLACES QUIZ

Decant
Decant

DECANT


This elegant word meaning pouring out a liquid into another vessel and separate the sediment comes from the Greek word for the lip of a jug Kanthos. In Latin this became canthus and is also a medical term to denote the eyelid margins. (lip of a jug – perhaps when tears flow?)


In Latin pouring out a liquid became decanthere from which the English borrowed to make decant. One can decant red wine or any liquid preparation to another vessel to breathe or cool down respectively.

DEVIL

The horned one’s name originally meant a ‘slanderer’ from Greek Diabolos – which literally meant to throw across. ( Dia - mean across & Ballein is a root meaning throw, from which comes ballistics)

The Greeks meant it to for someone who throws foul slur across, spreads slander etc.

This was freely borrowed into most European languages ( Spanish Diablo , Italian Diavolo, Russian Djavol and Dutch Duivel ).

The slanderer soon became the ultimate horned slanderer, Satan himself.

December
December

DECEMBER


Deca means 10 in Latin. This root comes in many English words – Decade ( ten years), Decimal ( tenth point),. Interestingly the Sanskrit name for 10 is also Dasa as in Dasavatar – meaning ten avatars.

I remember wondering why the last four months, September, October, November and December had numerical names meaning 7,8,9 and 10 ( Sept- 7, Octo -8 and so on) rather than 9,10,11,12 !

I found the answer from the various shenanigans of the Romans with the Calendar. The Romans only had a 10 month calendar of varying days originally leaving the winter days as one long undated break as nothing much significant happens during this period. This was called an intercalary month.

The Romulan ( not Star Trek but Romulus) Calendar had 10 months as denoted below.


Mensis December
Mensis December

ROMULAN CALENDAR

Month
Days
1 Martius
31
2 Aprilis
30
3 Maius
31
4 Iunius
30
5 Quintilis
31
6 Sextilis
30
7 September
30
8 October
31
9 November
30
10 December
30
Roman Mosaic -Seasons
Roman Mosaic -Seasons


Numius Pompilius added January and February to make it 12 months but the days were still is disarray and there was no accounting for the extra quarter day that occurs each year (the real number of days in each Earth year is 365 and 1/4 days )

When Julius Caesar took over Rome the Calendar was in disarray and many astronomers advised him to say that it failed to reflect the Earth year accurately. He tweaked so that every 4 years February can have an extra day and also rejigged the dates. To remind people of his act, he changed the name of Quintilius to Julius and this became July. Augustus Caesar not want to be left behind, took over Sixtilus and this became August. The Seventh , Eight , Ninth and Tenth months became the 9,10,11 and 12 th months.


Julian Calendar

Month
Days before 45 BC
Days after 45 BC
Ianuarius
29
31
Februarius
28 ( leap 23 or 24)
28( leap 29)
Martius
31
31
Aprilis
29
30
Maius
31
31
Iunius
29
30
Iulius (Quintils)
31
31
Augustus (Sextilis)
29
31
September
29
30
October
31
31
November
29
30
December
29
31
DoppelGanger
DoppelGanger

DOPPELGANGER



Doppel (double) and Gänger (walker) in German.

In folklore and mythology this word denoted an evil double that haunts a person. Characteristically this evil twin looked exactly like us but cast no shadows. People characteristically felt that you could catch doppelgangers in the corner of your eye in your peripheral vision and never directly. Their appearance was meant to bring bad luck. In some traditions if you see the doppelganger of a friend or a relative it meant illness or bad luck. However if you see your own it may even mean a portent of death. Spooky!


It is said that when PB Shelley drowned to his death on July 8th 1933, his death was preceded by seeing a doppelganger. Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, said in a letter to her friend that Percy claimed to have seen a Doppelganger 3 weeks before his Death while walking in the garden.


Another famous story goes that Abraham Lincoln, after winning his election went home tired and settled into his sofa. When he looked up into the mirror across the room he allegedly saw himself in the mirror but with two heads.- one that was like his own and the other face with a deathly pallor.

Optimistically, Lincoln had told his wife this probably meant that he will be re-elected the second term. He didn’t live to see a re-election as he was assassinated!

In modern parlance, this word has come to mean a double or a lookalike.

La Scapigliata
La Scapigliata

DISHEVELLED


While this now means ill kempt and untidily dressed it originally only referred to the hair. A messed up hair meant you were dishevelled as' the painting above' the lady with the dishevelled hair' will probably confirm.

It comes from French déchevelé which literally means dis- (“bad-”), + chevel (“hair”) .

Are you having a bad hair day?


Three stooges
Three stooges

AU REVOIR


So I thought it was better to leave you with the zany three stooges with their prerennial bad hair day than the scary doppelganger story.

Promise me that you will join me to read the next instalment.

I am having fun, I am sure you are too. If you haven't read the A,B and C do visit those hubs and enjoy the rich stories that follow those words.


Thank you for visiting.

Please do leave comments below and share with your friends of all ages if you like this series.


Copyright © Mohan Kumar 2011

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Comments 17 comments

matt 5 years ago

A very good quiz.


Docmo profile image

Docmo 5 years ago from UK Author

Thanks Matt!


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 5 years ago from Alberta and Florida

Great hub and fun quiz. (I scored 100%, of course.) A good vocabulary is essential for a writer and the best way to develop one is to read, read, read. Your tips for dealing with unknown words is great, but it doesn't hurt to keep a dictionary on hand. Well done! Lynda


Docmo profile image

Docmo 5 years ago from UK Author

Congrats on the 100% I expect no less from the great lmmartin. Thanks for reading and your comments. I agree about the dictionary. the contextual clues help when one is reading for pleasure and loathes interruptions.


drbj profile image

drbj 5 years ago from south Florida

What a lot of fun info you packed into this hub, Docmo. Thanks for your research and presentation. Quiz was great, too. :)


Docmo profile image

Docmo 5 years ago from UK Author

Thanks drbj. I can always count on your support!


Ingenira profile image

Ingenira 5 years ago

Very interesting and the photos are beautiful ! You can really write.


Docmo profile image

Docmo 5 years ago from UK Author

Thank you Ingenira. I am glad you like this hub and appreciate your comments.


Germaine Reilly 5 years ago

what a feast of all things D!

I hadn't realised dishevelled now extends to general appearance, when I'm using the lovely word I'm thinking and talking about hair.

I find the idea of dopple gangers eerie. Maybe it's a warning not to project or disown your shadow.


Docmo profile image

Docmo 5 years ago from UK Author

You are using the word then in its intended sense! Thanks for reading and if you have time I'm sure you will enjoy A,B & C too. yeah I too found the doppelgänger story eerie.


richtwf profile image

richtwf 5 years ago

Another great lesson and it's always my pleasure to sit down to read and learn from one of your hubs. I love to learn about words and their history - Each word has its own colourful background and you my friend tell their story in a very interesting and captivating way. Keep it up Word Maestro!

God bless.


Docmo profile image

Docmo 5 years ago from UK Author

Thank you rich, I take delight in the fact there are people like you who enjoy my attempts to illuminate the stories behind words. I really appreciate this. Thanks!


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago

Fantastic! I love etymology. Your Hub is awesome. I could not have enjoyed it more. I learned a lot and it was great fun. :D


Docmo profile image

Docmo 5 years ago from UK Author

Thanks James, appreciate your visit- if you liked this maybe you'll like the others in this series too... I love etymology and the stories are always fascinating.


Feline Prophet profile image

Feline Prophet 5 years ago from India

I have now caught up with all five of the word hubs - and am avidly looking forward to the next! :)


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)

Mohan (Docmo),

Daisy is delighted to read about daisies. Thanks for publishing this series, polymath. My favorite types of articles are ones in which I learn something new.


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 23 months ago from Nashville Tn.

Oh, how I enjoyed this hub packed with information about words. I love learning about words - in fact this has become a passion with me.

As soon as I vote up, useful, awesome, interesting and do some sharing, I'll treat myself to your other hubs about words.

Thanks - Have a beautiful day. Audrey

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