A particular physical characteristic of mine inspired this post.
The word bald has been with us since the 1300s, meaning wanting hair in some place where it naturally grows. Though we’re not really sure where the word bald came from, there are some likely sources. The Proto-Indo-European word *bhel- meant to shine, flash, or gleam, the Celtic word bal meant white patch or blaze, & the Sanskrit word bhalam meant brightness or forehead.
Appearing in the 1580s, meaning of black & white coloring, piebald appears to have come from combining pie, a shortening of magpie, (a black & white bird) with the Celtic sense of bald, meaning white.
Skewbald has been with us since the 1650s, meaning of brown and white coloring. Nobody’s sure where the skew in skewbald came from, but it’s pretty clear the bald bit came from that Celtic meaning of bald.
Who would think it’s germane, but in the 1840s the word chauvinism was born, meaning patriotism degenerated into a vice. It came from the character Nicolas Chauvin (of Théodore & Hipployte Cogniard’s play, La Cocarde Tricolore). This character hung onto his association with Napoleon & his politics long after Napoleon was gone. By the 1800s chauvinism broadened to also mean racism, & by the 1960s chauvinism began to mean sexism. Chauvin is the French form of Calvin, which comes from the Latin word calvus, meaning bald. Though paintings of John Calvin (originator of Calvinism) always show him wearing a natty cap, one must wonder why John Calvin wore that natty cap.
Any thoughts out there on baldness? If so, please leave a comment.
Thanks to this week’s sources, Etymonline.com, the OED, Trinities.org, Merriam-Webster, Collins English Dictionary, & Wordnik.com.
I write for teens, narrate audio books, bake bread, play music, and ponder the wonder of words in a foggy little town on California's central coast.
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