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The Rich Tapestry of Life Page
Odds and ends that don’t fit anywhere else, information, general knowledge, light-hearted quips and quotes from all over the place that make up the ‘rich tapestry of life’ for reading in those odd moments when you have nothing else to do!  In the earlier Tapestry pages we had random quotes from all over the place. In these latter ones we have had a variety of quotes but they fit a given subject. This page’sa subject is how our words change and how we got out language. We hope you enjoy it.
This is PAGE TWENTY SEVEN - Origins of Words
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Nearly all European languages, some languages spoken in the Middle East and northern India, and the ancient tongues of Greek, Latin and Sanskrit show a number of striking similarities which point to a common prehistoric source. This is assumed to be a language spoken thousands of years ago, possibly in central Europe, which is now referred to as Proto-Indo-European. Languages deriving from it belong to the Indo-European family. The term Indo-European describes the extent of the geographical distribution of the different languages.
The dispersal of the people who spoke Proto-Indo-European caused various linguistic branches to spring from the parent stock. One of these was Germanic. The original prehistoric tongue, now referred to as Proto-Germanic, eventually divided into North Germanic, East Germanic and West Germanic. Modern Scandinavian languages developed from North Germanic. English, along with Fresian, Flemish, German and Dutch, is of West Germanic origin.
(Source: Dictionary of Word Origins by Linda & Roger Flavell)

There are three main types of words in English: words the language started out with about 1700 years ago; words created out of other English words; and words taken from other languages....

English speakers began to travel into the wider world, exploring, trading, and conquering. This brought them into contact with other, non-Indo-European languages, and they were happy to take words from these and to use them in English.

Invaders in North America acquired words from Algonkian languages such as Blackfoot, Cree, and Ojibwa (e.g. moccasin, toboggan) and from the Uto-Aztecan language Nahuatl (e.g. chocolate, tomato). In South America they got words from languages such as Arawak, Carib, and Guarani (e.g. hurricane).

The British ruling India meant that words from Hindi and Urdu, known then under the joint name Hindustani (e.g. jungle, tea. shampoo), and also from non-Indo-European languages of India, such as Malayalam and Telugu (e.g. mongoose) came into English.

Exploration in the east brought English into contact with the Indonesian languages, especially Malay and the Philippine language Tagalog  (e.g. bamboo, gong); with Chinese (e.g. tea); and eventually with Japanese (e.g. kimono, soy).

To the south, the European takeover of Australia and New Zealand brought Aboriginal and Maori words into English (e.g. boomerang, kangaroo, kiwi). And numerous African languages have contributed to English, both via English-speaking colonists in Africa and through the Africans who were transported to North America and the Caribbean as slaves: they include Fanti, Swahili, Tswana, and Wolof (e.g. juke- as in jukebox, safari).

(Source: Oxford School Dictionary of Word Origins)


Old English

During the fifth and sixth centuries Britain was invaded and settled by the Angles, the Saxons and the Jutes, Germanic peoples from the Jutland region of northern Europe. In Britain these peoples were soon collectively known as the Angles. The Germanic dialects they spoke were very similar to each other and from them the English lan­guage (Englisc) evolved.  The name of the language comes from Engle, the Old English word for 'Angle'.) This initial period of the English language, which is now known as Old English, lasted until the Norman invasion of 1066. During these centuries Old English was considerably enriched by the vocabulary of Christian mission and by a stock of Old Norse words that it absorbed during the Viking invasions

(Source: Dictionary of Word Origins by Linda & Roger Flavell)


Some examples of word developments:

Aardvark: the word for this badger-like animal comes from Afrikaans, from two words, aarde meaning earth, and vark meaning pig.

Earnest: comes from the Old English eornost, of ancient Germanic origin. This was a noun meaning ‘intense passion, especially in battle’.

Gigantic: comes from Latin gigantis meaning ‘of a giant’

Loft: comes from Old Norse lopt which means ‘air or sky’ or ‘an upper room’, related to German Luft meaning ‘air’.

Scuba: comes from the initial letters of the word ‘self-contained underwater breathing apparatus’

Target:  is Middle English, and comes from an older word targe. This meant a ‘small round shield’, from Old English targa or targe, of ancient Germanic origin

(Source: Oxford School Dictionary of Word Origins)


Middle English

English changed considerably as a result of the Norman Conquest.  During the Middle English period, which lasted from about 1100 to 1500, French was the language of the upper classes. The French spo­ken in England developed from the northern French dialect of the conquerors and is known as Anglo-Norman or Anglo-French. English survived as the language of the uneducated masses but naturally absorbed a large number of Anglo-French words. After about 1250, however, there was an increasing tendency for upper-class French speakers to express themselves in English. In doing so, they made use of French words that were familiar to them, many of them borrowed from Old French, so that an even greater influx of foreign words poured into every area of English vocabulary. Where an Old English word and a French word had the same meaning, the Old English was often discarded in favour of the French. Nevertheless, in its grammatical structure and with its important core of basic vocabulary (house, meat, drink, work, sleep, sing, etc.) which remained unchanged, English was still a Germanic language.

(Source: Dictionary of Word Origins by Linda & Roger Flavell)


This is a book. The glorious insanities of the English language mean you can do all sorts of odd and demeaning things to a book.  You can cook it. You can bring a criminal to it, or, if the criminal refuses to be brought, you can throw it at him. You may even take a leaf out of it, the price of lavatory paper being what it is. But there is one thing that you can never do to a book like this. Try as and how you might, you cannot turn up for it. Because a turn-up for the books has nothing, directly, to do with the ink-glue-and-paper affair that this is (that is, unless you're terribly modern and using a Kindle or somesuch). It's a turn-up for the bookmakers.

Any child who sees the bookmaker's facing the bookshop across the High Street will draw the seemingly logical conclu­sion, as a bookmaker was, once, simply somebody who stuck books together. Indeed, the term bookmaker used to be used to describe the kind of writer who just pumps out one shelf-filler after another with no regard for the exhaustion of the reading public. Thomas More observed in 1533 that 'of newe booke makers there are now moe then ynough'. Luckily for the book trade, More was beheaded a couple of years later.

The modern sense of the bookmaker as a man who takes bets originated on the racecourses of Victorian Britain. The bookmaker would accept bets from anyone who wanted to lay them, and note them all down in a big betting book. Meanwhile, a turn-up was just a happy chance. A dictionary of slang from 1873 thoughtfully gives us this definition:
Turn up: an unexpected slice of luck. Among sporting men bookmakers are said to have had a turn up when an unbacked horse wins.

So when such an unfancied nag romps over the finish line, it’s a turn-up for the books, because the bookies won’t have to pay out.

(Source: The Etymologicon by Mark Forsyth)


Modern English

Modern English, which we date from about 1500, continued to assimilate a huge number of foreign terms. The Renaissance excited the spirit of discovery. The invention of printing with movable type sparked the desire to break the restriction of Latin as the language of scholarship and to communicate in the vernacular to a wider readership. Where English was inadequate for this purpose, classical terms were naturalised. Translations were made from modern languages such as French and Italian, as well as classical Greek and Latin, thus introducing further foreign words into English. New continents and people were discovered and English vocabulary extended through the adoption of strange terms descriptive of exotic landscapes, life and customs. Trade flourished and new commodities were made avail­able, from different fabrics to beverages such as tea and cocoa. Medical and scientific knowledge increased and were expressed in terms coined from Latin and Greek.  English continues to grow and change rapidly as it reflects the concerns, interests and needs of its speakers. Technological advances in the twentieth century, for instance, have introduced a wealth of new terms while, at the close of the century, the adjective green has developed a new  meaning which reflects present-day preoccupation over the welfare of our planet.

(Source: Dictionary of Word Origins by Linda & Roger Flavell)


Chambers Twentieth Century Dictionary has always faithfully reflected changes in a living language. Now the pace of change has increased rapidly, for many diverse influences are at work, and a new version has had to be prepared.

There have been revolutionary developments in the sciences and tech­nology, and the influence of mass media has made new scientific and technical terms no longer the monopoly of the specialist. The hitherto somewhat rigid barrier between formal and colloquial English is collapsing to such an extent that some contemporary fiction is virtually unintellig­ible to those without a wide colloquial vocabulary. Again, the hitherto largely artificial gulf between 'English' and 'American English' is being bridged. At the same time Britain's closer ties with Europe are increasing the number of foreign words and phrases likely to be encountered by the reader of English.

(Source: Publisher's Preface to Chambers Twentieth Century Dictionary)


And you thought we had our own unique language????  And that it’s always been the same????



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