Often, the similarities in related words are obvious. Not so with the etymological descendants of the Proto-Indo-European word deik-.
Deik-‘s original meaning was to show or pronounce solemnly. A secondary meaning had to do with the directing of words or objects.
One of the descendants of deik- made its way to Greek to become diskos, meaning disk, platter, or quoit (a quoit is a ring of rope or iron thrown toward a peg in a game much like horseshoes). Diskos moved from Greek into Latin in the form of discus, where it meant disc or quoit. By the 1660s it made its way to English (spelled disc or disk) to mean round, flat surface, & picked up the meaning phonograph record in 1888, computer information storage device in 1947 (who knew?) & the usage disk drive in 1952.
Deik-‘s time in Greek also gave birth to the form dicare, to proclaim or dedicate. It then traveled through Latin to become dicere, to speak, tell or say, & showed up in English in the 1540s as diction, meaning a word. By the 1580s diction meant expression in words & by the 1700s it also meant choice of words & phrases.1748 brought the meaning speech or oratory. And in this same etymological strain in 1526 the word dictionary was born, meaning a repertory of phrases or words.
When the Germans (or Proto-Germans to be exact) got hold of deik-, it became taiknam, show explain or teach, which made its way into Old English as tacen, meaning sign, symbol or evidence, & then became our modern word token. This same Proto-German>German strain of deik- turned into the word teach. Its Old English form was tæcan, to train, warn, persuade, or give instruction.
Though etymologists don’t connect the word dactyl with deik-, it appears that deik may have also referred to fingers (probably due to its meaning show). Deik definitely referred to toes, even though few folks use their toes to show things. The toe strand of the family tree came through Proto-Germanic as taiwho, then into Old English as toe. Interestingly, the plural of toe was originally tan.
I hope all that inspires you to leave a comment (or possibly to be thankful nobody needs to remember all this stuff)..
Big thanks to this week’s sources: Etymonline, Wordnik, Merriam Webster, & the OED.
This post will cover some vamoose synonyms submitted by friends after the first vamoose post yet not covered in the second vamoose post.
Betsy suggested burn rubber, an idiom that showed up in the mid-1900s in reference to cars accelerating before their tires caught up with them. A related term is lay some rubber.
Another idiom Betsy suggested is make like a ghost. Though I find multiple uses of this phrase in digital forums, I am finding no commentary regarding its origin. Maybe some hardworking etymologist did the research, then all his/her work made like a ghost.
Pal Gwen suggested scat, which arrived in 1838 meaning go away. Scat is an abbreviation of an 1800s phrase, quicker than s’cat. Though nobody’s certain, the s preceding the cat may have represented the sound of the cat hissing as it skedaddled.
Hit the Road, suggested by Sioux, showed up in the language in 1873. This idiom was celebrated with the addition of Jack in 1960 in a song written by Percy Mayfield & made famous by Ray Charles.
Sioux also came up with take a hike, which is considered a pejorative directive. Though the idiom take a hike seems to have appeared in the last fifty years, the solo word hike was used in the early 1800s with the same contemptuous sense.
Book it, suggested by Sami, has been around in that particular form since the 1970s & appears to be an abbreviation of bookity-book, an echoic representation of shoes running on a hard surface, first recorded in a 1935 Zora Neale Hurston story.
Here’s hoping you’ll comment regarding all these vamoose synonyms before you digitally hit the road.
Big thanks to this week’s sources: Wordnik, Etymonline, The Free Dictionary,Dictionary.com, & the OED.
I had assumed last week’s post on words meaning scram would be a one-shot deal, but a heap of friends contacted me with scram-related phrases and words I hadn’t covered. So I’ve got to keep going.
Bruce suggested the term di di, in use by the American military during the Viet Nam War (aka Police Action). Di di is a direct borrowing from Vietnamese, though in Viet Nam both di di (get out of here) & di di mau (get out of here pronto) are considered impolite ways to ask someone to beat feet (an idiom suggested by both Bruce & my friend Sioux).
Beat feet is an idiom that appears to have originated in American prisons or among American police, though nobody seems to be working very hard at finding its first use.
Bruce also suggested let’s split a phrase first used in American slang in 1954. Split comes from Middle English & originally meant to divide two things or remove something, which suggests the idiom let’s split may be more literal that figurative. A clearly related idiom suggested by another pal, Betsy, is the term splitsville, a word I find in use in many places, but its origin is a mystery. First used when? First used where? Nada.
Betsy also suggested feets don’t’ fail me now, which appears to have been a line used regularly in vaudeville. Though it was employed to poke fun at Black dialect, it appears the term may have been authentic. Feets don’t’ fail me now was embraced by actor Manton Moreland in the 1940s & has been used in songs by Blind Lemon Jefferson, Herbie Hancock, & Little Feat.
And my pal Sioux came up with let’s blow this popsicle stand, which is similarly un-researched, though the phrase did appear in a Mork and Mindy episode & in a Richard Dreyfus movie. Apparently the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were also fond of the phrase. Also of interest, there may be a regional element at work, as the idioms let’s blow this pop stand & let’s blow this taco stand are used to mean the same thing.
Please leave a comment or two about all this in the comments section. Me? I’m splitsville.
Big thanks to this week’s sources: Wordnik, Etymonline, Straight Dope, Glossary of Military Terms, the OED.
How many ways are there to say to leave? Here are a few that I find intriguing. Interestingly, only the first two come from sources other than American English.
Vamoose comes from the Spanish word vamos & showed up in English in 1834. The Spanish word translates to let us go & comes from the Proto-Indo-European word wadh- through Latin. Wadh-‘s progeny include the word wade.
Since 1844 English speakers have been able to shove off, a term born in the British boating world.
The classic American cop shows of our youth often included the theifly imperative Cheese it man, it’s the cops! Cheese it means stop, hide, quit, be quiet, or get out of here. Nobody’s sure where cheese it came from, but at least one etymologist has suggested it may have come from the word cease.
1950s westerns gave us the phrase, Get out of Dodge, meaning leave town, as so many westerns were based in Dodge City, Kansas, & there was seldom enough room in Dodge City into which a protagonist & antagonist might successfully coexist
In 1928 the word scram materialized in American English. Its source is unclear. It may have been derived from scramble or it may have descended from the German word schramm, which means to depart.
Another American English term, to make tracks, showed up in 1835, meaning to move quickly.
Skedaddle also comes from American English & has an unknown source. It appeared in 1861 meaning to run away & was a form of military slang during the Civil War. Possible but unproven sources include scaddle, a dialectical English word meaning scare or frighten, & a Northern English dialectical word which meant to spill. Continuing in the uncertain parentage vein skedaddle may or may not have spawned the 1905 word skidoo, meaning to leave in a hurry, a word nearly always associated with the number twenty-three for no reason anyone has yet discerned.
Here’s hoping you’ll add a comment or two about all this in the comments section. Me? I’ve got to scram.
Big thanks to this week’s sources: Wordnik, Etymonline, Dictionary.com, the OED.
I write for teens & tweens, bake bread, play music, and ponder the wonder of words in a foggy little town on California's central coast.
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