Given the virus, nobody's gathering anymore. At least we can ponder the origins of gathering-type words. Gathering came to English in 1871, meaning a dance, party, or lively gathering. It appears to have come from the word shindy, a spree or merrymaking (a shindig). Though nobody is certain, shindy may have come from a hockey-like Scottish game named shinty or the Old English word scinu, meaning shin.
A party wasn’t called a bash until some time after 1901. This sense of bash grew out of an earlier slang expression meaning a drunken spree. Before that, bash made its noun debut in 1805 meaning a heavy blow after a long run as a verb meaning to strike violently, which started in the 1640s & came from Old Norse.
An informal gathering of folk musicians has been known as a hootenanny since 1940. Before that, the word hootenanny meant any sort of gadget, & before that a hootenanny was more specific -- the sort of gadget a car thief uses to break into a car.
The 1932 meaning of rally, a gathering of automobile enthusiasts, comes from an earlier military meaning of rally, a regrouping for renewed action after a repulse, which came to English in the 1650s from the French word rallier, to unite again or reassemble.
The word jamboree is a bit of a puzzle. It’s been in use in English since 1866, meaning large gathering. Some etymologists think it may have come from the French word bourree, a rustic dance. Others suggest it may have Hindu roots. Some note that the term jambone was used in the game of cribbage when a player had gathered the highest five cards available. No definitive assemblage of documents has surfaced to solve this puzzle.
When blowout first came to English in 1825 in meant a brewhaha or outburst. Since then blowout has come to mean an abundant feast or festive social affair. Blowout is constructed from blow, which comes from an Old English term meaning to move air combined with out, another Old English word meaning out, outside or without.
The word powwow, which today means council, conference or meeting, is an Algonquian word that initially meant shaman, Indian priest or medicine man. It comes from a word that meant to use divination, to dream. In the 1660s among English speakers it began to mean ritual ceremony among natives, which led to its modern meaning.
A confab is a gathering of people for discussion. This term is a shortening of confabulation, a 1400s English word meaning talking together. Its root is the Latin word confabulari.
What do youhave to say about all these various words meaning a gathering?
Big thanks to this week’s sources: Wordnik, Etymonline, Merriam Webster, & the OED.
Bunches of English words are imitative, or onomatopoeic. Some have even been put to music…
Splish-splash I was taking a bath
This post considers some not-quite top-40s, yet equally enjoyable examples.
Didgeridoo, an aboriginal Australian word, was first written down in English in 1924. Presumably, the name imitates a didgeridoo’s sounds just as it is filled with air.
Another great music-related onomatopoeic word is oom-pah, born in 1877 (when John Phillips Souza was only twenty-three years old). This word is imitative of the sounds made by the tuba and sousaphone.
Starting out meaning mindless babbling, & morphing into a word meaning crazy or silly, we have gaga, which appeared in English in 1920.
We call a petty quarrel a spat, because spat sounds like a slap or smack, often an element in a petty quarrel. Spat first showed up in English in 1804.
Squabble most likely has imitative roots, also. It seems some Scandinavian speakers had an onomatopoeic word referring to a babbling quarrel. This word made its way into English somewhere around 1600 in the form of squabble.
Squabbles or spats might also include any number of words imitative of a hit or strike. Slap, whack, thump, bonk & bash are examples.
Heaps of imitative words refer to the noises we sometimes make:
he-he, imitative of laughter, showed up sometime before Middle English
yodel showed up in English in 1827
hiss showed up as early as the 1300s
sneeze showed up in the late 1500s. Its pre-Germanic root
(fneu-s) was imitative.
howl came to English during the 1200s from an unspecified Germanic
guffaw showed up in English from Scottish in 1720
gag appeared in the 1400s & may have Old Norse onomatopoeic roots
blather has either Scottish or Old Norse roots, both of which are imitative.
Keep your ears open this week for words that just might be imitative. And in all your spare time (ha!) feel free to leave a comment.
My thanks go out to this week’s sources: OED, Didgeridoo Origins & Use, Merriam Webster, Wordnik, & 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.