For the language lovers out there …

Nowadays I’m following Tim Ferriss on Twitter ( I still think that ‘following’ is a creepy word for that, though ). He mostly gives useful links, but doesn’t tweet as much so that you can go to sleep without worries that the next day your tweetlist will be full with links.

Though I’m more interested in his language learning related posts, his blog is informative in many ways. Even more so because he tries everything out himself and reports the results, saving you and me a lot of energy and time.

He recently tweeted about a site ( Etymologically Speaking ) with a list of some curious word origins. Here are some of my favourites that I found very interesting:

From the medieval Latin, “Quinta Essentia,” or “the Fifth Essence” — what we would now call, “The Fifth Element.” That which is quintessential is of the fifth element that would come after the four classical elements (earth, wind, rain, fire). The OED summarizes this original sense best, “The `fifth essence’ of ancient and medieval philosophy, supposed to be the substance of which the heavenly bodies were composed, and to be actually latent in all things, the extraction of it by distillation or other methods being one of the great objects of alchemy.”
“Quintessential” began life as an alchemical term, the Quinta Essentia, the fifth that arises from the four elements you mention in your etymology. The Fifth was thought to be the fabled Philosopher’s Stone which the alchemists sought, a Stone that could cure illness, extend life, and turn base metals into gold and silver. How to combine the four elements to make the Fifth was the great problem of alchemy (from the Arabic “al-kimiya”).

Robot comes from the Czech word “robot,” which means “worker.” In 1923, Karl Capek, a well-known, Czech, science-fiction writer at the time, wrote a futuristic thriller about a nightmarish scenario in which the machines have taken over (a la, the “Terminator”) and implanted circuitry in humans to make them into mindless zombies willing to serve them as workers or “robots.”

Schlaf (German) Sleep
Originally meant, “the process of becoming tired”

Gants de Suede is French for “gloves of Sweden.” It was in Sweden that the first leather was buffed to a fine softness, and the French bought the gants de Suede. Suede now refers to the buffing process–not to any particular kind of leather.

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7 Responses to “For the language lovers out there …”

  1. Nathalie Says:
    September 24th, 2009 at 5:41 pm

    I always wondered why “suede” was “suede” in English as it is the French word for Sweden. “Gant de Su├Ęde” must be old fashionned though because I have never heard it before… Now suede in French is “daim”, but we use the word “suedine” for fake suede.
    Huh, are you confused yet? ;)

  2. Serpentaires Says:
    September 25th, 2009 at 12:54 pm

    Ooooh that’s so funny… I’d better not browse it too much, I might get engulfed too much in that… Thanks for sharign the link !

  3. coloursandtextures Says:
    September 26th, 2009 at 1:52 pm

    Thanks for the link, I find etymology fascinating.
    What we call traffic lights in the UK are called robots in South Africa and that makes sense if robot means worker.

  4. jealousydesign Says:
    September 26th, 2009 at 2:54 pm

    Really fun reading!

  5. IngerMaaike Says:
    September 26th, 2009 at 8:56 pm

    I so love entimology, I have a huge big book which I randomly browse now and again..this site is much more addictive :-D

  6. Swiedebie Says:
    September 26th, 2009 at 9:46 pm

    How cool is that. Thanks for sharing, girl.

  7. Kreativlink Says:
    September 27th, 2009 at 9:53 am

    Great read! :D