The Urban Dictionary defines sheeple as people who follow trends mindlessly. Instead of trends, I mindlessly follow word histories. I refer to this practice as etymosheepling. Here’s an example:
I randomly land on the word genuine, meaning natural or not acquired. It arrived in English in the 1590s, its Latin root being gignere, meaning beget. Genuine’s etymological notes suggest that its form (ending in –ine) may have been influenced through contrast to adulterinus, which meant spurious or false.
Adulterinus? It must be associated with adultery, but is it associated with adult? Etymosheepling rules lead me to look up adultery & adult.
Adultery is related to adulterate, both words coming from the Latin word adulterare, to corrupt. Adult – on the other hand – came from the Latin adultus, meaning grown up, mature, adult or ripe. Adult came into English in the 1530s. The etymological notes under adult explain – and I can’t believe I never imagined the connection – that adultus is the past participle of adolescere, to grow up, mature, or be nourished. This means that the root words for adolescent & adult reflect the same sort of growth reflected by in-the-flesh adolescents as they change to adults.
That would lead me to…WAIT!
I could go all night. I love this stuff.
A good game of Etymosheeple can be endless. With that in mind, we’ll call this round one, with plans of continuing next week.
Please join in the game, suggest in the comments section a thread we might follow from the final etymology or definition above.
My thanks go out to this week’s sources: the OED, Wordnik, The Urban Dictionary, & Etymonline.
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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