- Books, Literature, and Writing
Words and Flowers ~~ for Etymologists and Gardeners
This particular hub is dedicated to one of our HP writers, Kathleen Cochran, who this morning over breakfast suggested that I write a hub on words and their etymologies. I told her I had a hub on that very topic, which had been sitting unfinished for two months. She commented that clearly great minds think alike. :) So I came home and finished the hub.
Beyond that, Kathleen introduced me to HubPages and kindly and repeatedly badgered, I mean encouraged, me to join and give it a try. I obviously started writing about what I know best, Modern European History, World War II in particular. Soon I was hooked on writing, on reading, on the wonderful ongoing conversations and friendships that develop here. And no one was more surprised than I when I began to write outside my comfort zone.
Now my comfort zone has been enlarged as has my circle of friends who write exceedingly well. For me, it all began with Kathleen sharing her excitement and joy. Please keep reading and ENJOY! :)
Cautelous is interesting to me, because when I first came across it, I immediately thought of the word “cauterize” meaning to sear or burn a wound with a heated tool – this procedure is done to eliminate bacteria and promote healing. The word can also mean to render one insensible . I rather self-indulgently congratulated myself on my linguistic prowess, but a nagging suspicion in the back of my mind compelled me to look it up anyway and come to find out it is not related to “cauterize” at all!
The first time we find the word in literature is in 1384 and this archaic word comes to us from Latin by way of the Medieval French word “caudeleux. Today we use cautelous, which is an adjective, when we want to describe someone, or perhaps even an animal, as crafty, cunning, cautious or wary.
This word was too compelling to pass up because I assumed, correctly this time, that it was related to one of my favorite words “ramification.” Ramify, which is a verb, comes from the Latin and means branch. My last name which is German, although my patrilineal family is Polish, means the limb or branch of a tree.
Imagine my astonishment when examining World War II army document at the National Archives when I chanced across the word “aeste” (plural of ast). A German official was describing where certain branches - “aeste” - of the SS (Schutzstaffel) were located. But to return to Ramify which means to divide into branches and going very far back to the Indo-European root “wrad” we also find radish, root, radical, eradicate, and rutabaga.
Gnathic, is not a word one is likely to use very often, but it comes with an interesting history and evolution, never-the-less. It an adjective which refers to something derived from or relating to the jaw. Scholars believe the original Indo-European root was “genu” which could mean either jawbone or chin, hence the word “prognathous” or chin. It comes to us most directly from the Greek “gnathos” for jaw. The first documented usage appears to be 1882.
I imagine that manyof us will quickly recognize this word in its adjectival form Aurorean, because we are already familiar with the term “aurora borealis,” commonly referred to as the Northern Lights. For those of you well-acquainted with Latin mythology, you will recognize “aurora” meaning sunrise, dawn or even the goddess of dawn. Specifically, Aurorean, refers to something related to or belonging to the dawn.
The Borealis is created when charged electrons contained in the solar wind encounter atoms of nitrogen and oxygen in the earth’s upper atmosphere; this could be anywhere from 20 to 200 miles above the surface of the earth. The shape and location of the borealis, whether northern or southern is determined by the lines of magnetic force associated with the north and south Poles.
Many of us will assume this word has something to do with four; we associate the first syllable with common words like quarter, quartile, etc. Quadrennium is a noun meaning a period of four years. The word is derived from the combination of the Medieval Latin roots “quadri” meaning four and “annus” meaning year. The original Indo-European root was “at” from which a whole variety of words commonly used in English are descended. For example, annuity, perennial, annals, annual.
And there is this prince of a word using the root “annus” – Superannuated, indicating something which is outmoded or old-fashioned, or a condition where advanced age has incapacitated a person for active duty, or someone older than the usual members of a specific group, say beginning swimmers. Synonyms for superannuated are varied and quite interesting: obsolete, Noachian – I wonder what Noah thinks, fossilized, medieval, Neolithic, antiquated, and moth-eaten. Speaking of Noah, we can’t ignore that most wonderful of words - antediluvian – “before the flood.”
The word Morphean, an adjective, refers to something that is sleep inducing or that is related to drowsiness. The root of the word, “morph” is Greek. Those who study Greek mythology will immediately recognize the god of dreams Morpheus, who was the son of Hypnos, the god of sleep. He was responsible for introducing human beings into the subconscious of people who were dreaming; Morpheus was literally, “the Maker of shaoes” which helps explain how all these words are related.
We also have the linguistically related word, Morphine, which is a bitter addictive narcotic, the principal alkaloid in opium (think poppies); there is a serious danger of addiction with long term medical use. Morphine is often administered when patients need either an analgesic or a sedative to alleviate pain and/or profound emotional distress. Morphine has a decided calming effect which helps protect the individual who has just suffered a major physical injury or trauma of some sort. Morphine can be administered orally, by injection or by IV intravenous drip.
Large doses of morphine are known to depress respiration (minimize the normal breathing response) , therefore there use in terminal cases is controversial. They do indeed make the terminal patient, who might otherwise be suffering quite terribly, comfortable and peaceful, but by depressing respiration, the use of morphine hastens death. This is an issue that needs to be thoroughly discussed between the patient (if possible), the family members, and the medical staff.
Found in French and German in the early 1800’s (from Latin), Morphology is (1) the branch of Biology that investigates the structure and form of plants and animals, or (2) the identification, analysis, and description of the structure of a specific language and is concerned with things like linguistic derivation, context, intonation / inflection, and word compounding, in other words morphology is concerned with the word-forming elements and processes within any language.
And then there is the word Metamorphoses which commonly refers to a change in physical structure, form, or substance. Frequently in literature, the word is used to draw attention to a striking alteration in character or appearance of an individual. However, in Biology, the word often refers to a fairly abrupt developmental change, for example, a change which affects the structure or physical form of an animal. These changes occur after the animal is born (or hatches); they do not occur in utero and may include biochemical, behavioral, and physiological changes. The word comes to us from Greek to Latin to German.
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