Words of the Day: Faith, Fire, Free

My old blog, the Word of the Day, is defunct, and I’m getting ready to take it down. Before I do, though, I’m going to repost some of the best words here over the next few weeks. Enjoy!

Faith

trustyourfeelingsFaith ultimately comes from Proto Indo European bhidh, meaning something like “persuade” or “compel”. When bhidh came into Latin, it became fidere, “to trust”, presumably because something sufficiently compelling would be trustworthy…

The nominal form was fides, which became feid in Old French and faith in English in 1250. It wasn’t used in a Christian sense until 1382, although apparently religions have been called “faiths” since about 1300.

Faith and many words that sound similar make up an interesting family. It begins with unfettered freedom (”f”) that is flexible and spreads out wide (long “a”), but is then drawn up along a “perilous path” (”th”). The idea appears to be that faith is the state of having one’s beliefs, which a priori are completely free and flexible, constrained onto a particular path. Faith, in other words, means limiting your beliefs.

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Words of the Day: Disco, Elephant, Faerie, Fairy, Fate

My old blog, the Word of the Day, is defunct, and I’m getting ready to take it down. Before I do, though, I’m going to repost some of the best words here over the next few weeks. Enjoy!

Disco

childishpaganismDisco is the shortened form of discotheque, a French word meaning something like “nightclub with recorded dance music”. Discotheque was borrowed into most European languages (e.g. German Diskothek), as well as English, but it lasted just a short time in our language before being drastically shortened to disco. Originally it meant just the place where the music was played, but it soon was applied to the music as well.

The French word discotheque was itself borrowed from Italian discoteca, which meant “music library” (from disco, phonograph record, and –teca, by analogy with biblioteca, a book (biblio)-library). Thus the English clipping, disco, is identical with the original Italian word for phonograph record. This word refers to the disk-shape of the record, as you might expect.

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The Great Bear IV: Temple of the Bear

Besides meditation, I did more mundane kinds of research on the habits of bears and the folklore surrounding them. I also looked up the meaning of “bear” (which means “brown”, but has a fascinating history — I’ll post on it at some point soon) and words related to it. I realized that the name Orson means “little bear”. The name Acadia goes back to the Greek region of Arcadia, which means “land of the bear”. Ali herself had gone to Ursinus College, “Bear College”. The name of Arthur, the king revered by most of the revival druids (especially in Britain), is probably related to the Welsh word for bear…

Cave of the Bear

DSC02621And the next time I meditated, a saw the bear in its real form. It was there among the rocks, on the other side of the stream, a brown bear, on all fours and looking in the water, dragging its paw in the stream, fishing. Then there was a flash of silver and a splash, and the bear had a fish in its mouth. It lay down like a dog, holding the fish on the ground between its paws, and began to eat. After a moment, as I continued to watch, the bear looked up at me. I was a little afraid, but not too much. Although the bear was clearly strong and powerful, there was something in its gaze that welcomed me as a respected equal.

I crossed the stream and the bear approached.

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Words of the Day: Call, Choir, Confucius

My old blog, the Word of the Day, is defunct, and I’m getting ready to take it down. Before I do, though, I’m going to repost some of the best words here over the next few weeks. Enjoy!

Call

colignycalendarFrom Proto Indo European gal, “to shout, shriek, call out”; it’s the ancestor of clatter as well, and, oddly enough, glasnost (which is derived from an obsolete Russian word for “voice”). In Old Norse gal became kalla, “to cry loudly”, which became ceallian in Old English.

Once in English it began a strange adventure in meaning shifts. From 1250, it came to also mean “to name”, and the meaning “to visit” shortly afterwards. The sense of calling as a vocation is derived from the King James bible, I Corinthians ch. 7 v. 20: Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called.

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The Great Bear III: Old Grandfather

There is a word — it comes from Latin facere, “to make”; more specifically the nominal form, facticius, “handmade thing, craft”. It descended into Portuguese as feitiço, and came to refer specifically to handmade charms and talismans crafted by the inhabitants of the Guinea coast of Africa, frequently visited (and ravaged) by Portuguese sailors in the 1500’s. It was borrowed into French, and then English.

Fetish

FireAndWater(The use of “fetish” in the psychological / sexual sense comes from the idea that a fetish is something “irrationally revered”.)

Maine is known for its fascination with the Moose, and Bar Harbor has moose everywhere — on signs, on posters, flashing in neon (I kid you not), on t-shirts and postcards and…

But what I kept seeing were the bears. There were no bears on signs (neon or otherwise), but they were everywhere else. Particularly in the shops. Particularly in this one shop…

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