Have you ever wondered how words come into being?
Is the brain engaged before you give birth to a new word? Or, does a new term miraculously pop into someone’s head and is then used by everyone? Is there a Word Wizard who waves his wand, and an appropriate expression is magically born? Or, is there an App for word creation?
Worry not, dear reader. This column is not concerned with the etymology of words. (Etymology comes from the Greek etumos, meaning true. So, Etumologia is the study of the true meaning of words, which includes its origin and changes throughout history.) Our quest is more warped.
For example, consider the word shampoo. If Warpedlock is the love child of the OED, the Oxford English Dictionary, the answer is twisted. For example, shampoo has two components: sham and poo. What our inquiring minds wish to understand is in what universe is a product called Fake Excrement perfect for rubbing all over our hair?
This writer has always been fascinated by words. Of course, her expanding vocabulary is a result of reading as many books as possible. The more unusual the word, the better she likes it. You could say she collects and attempts to use as many unique words as possible.
For example, her college Latin professor often closed his lectures with “It behooves you to study for tomorrow’s test.” He meant it was incumbent upon us, the students, to do so because it was our duty to study and learn.
Nowadays, the word flows trippingly off this lady’s tongue when she feels the urge to strongly encourage someone to do something, which will ultimately benefit that person.
We can safely say writers are strange creatures. You never know what will inspire them. A conversation with friends. The muse for today’s column? A glance out the window to admire the knockout roses Hubby planted for her along the back fence. Suddenly, her focus was on the word knockout.
The question remains. Why are the flowers called knockout roses? The most obvious answer is because the roses seem to be immune to the bane of rosarians, blackspot disease.
Do not dismiss the obvious. This lady always prefers a weird, and perhaps a bit twisted answer.
You cannot dig a hole and stick the bush in the ground and expect to enjoy a plethora of beautiful roses forever. After the planting, you do not stand around gazing at the blooms.
There is work involved if you plant roses. Of course, they require water. But then after the blooming comes the deadheading (the removal of dead flowers). The process is thorny, painful, and time-consuming, especially when you consider we have ten rosebushes. In her mind, knockout refers to how she feels after caring for the demanding plants.
As a side note, is this gardener the only one who thinks roses are similar to toddlers, requiring constant care and attention?
Moving along, how about deconstructing a couple more examples.
Isolation has made this lady stir crazy. So, she baked cookies. In the real world, cookies mean small cakes. However, in the convoluted mind of this writer, cookies have an entirely different meaning.
The root word is cook. Therefore, when we add the ies suffix, then logic suggests that cookies are little cooks. What if cookies refer to Willy Wonka’s short workers, the Oompa Loompas?
Most folks own a refrigerator. The prefix re implies a repeated action. Therefore to refrigerate is to chill again. But what if you just mixed up something and put it in the refrigerator? How can you repeat an action involving an item when you are doing it for the first time?
Consumers of adult beverages might be familiar with cocktails, especially during this lockdown.
The word originates from the early 17th century, describing an animal with a docked or shortened tail. The second meaning refers to a mixed drink. Alcohol diluted or debased (reduced in quality).
Considering our increasingly sissified society, we wonder if folks would smack their lips in anticipation if they knew they ordered a horse’s rear-end attachment? Yum.