Living · Writing

Wordtales 2020.1

This is written in periwinkle ink, which derives from Latin per + vincere ‘to bind thoroughly’. The color term derives from the flower. It also means a small, edible mollusk, which derives from Middle English pine-winkle by association, because periwinkle sounds way cooler.

It’s time for some more wordtales.

(Since I moved to WordPress, I haven’t figured out how to post a little, intermittently updating inset blurb, so I’ve stored some up.)

“Edulcorate” means ‘to sugarcoat.’ If you parse it, it literally means to draw the sweetness out of something (Latin ex- ‘out of’ + dulcor ‘sweetness’), presumably surfacing the object’s innate, inner sweetness, which is not the same as how it’s most often used, as to slap sugar on something from the outside brusquely and crudely, like with a palette knife, not even a detail brush.

“Virago” is a term for a loud, bossy woman. That’s great, because it literally means ‘to act like a man.’ Latin vir-  means ‘man’ and gives us virile, virtue, and other lovely words. It’s Germanic cognate, wer, survives in werewolf and all the manifold multiform critters like werebear and wererat of the D & D universe. Add Latin ago/agere = to act, and the word “virago” means ‘manlike.’ We don’t hold a very high bar for men, apparently. Of course this term derives from a time when men were in control of politics and power, and for a woman to reach in to that realm was unfeminine to the point of condemnation. No comment.

Finally, in Italian, people make meatballs of others instead of mincemeat, cover their eyes with ham instead of burying their heads in the sand, choose a fish instead of picking a direction, and wish each other dreams of gold. Not sweet dreams. Golden, gilded, glimmering dreams.

Words are awesome. Sogni d’oro, y’all.

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