At first, the etymology of the word fiction doesn’t seem to hold any surprises. The word showed up in English in the 1300s meaning something invented. It came from the French word ficcion, which meant ruse, invention or dissimulation. Ficcion came from the Latin word fictio, a fashioning or feigning.
Nothing particularly unexpected there.
But wait. The Latin word fictio’s source is the Latin verb, fingere, to devise, form or shape, It comes from a Proto-Indo-European verb meaning to knead, to build, to form;
all the things one might do with dough.
In fact, through a long series of side-by-side mutations, the word fiction and the word dough come from the same root (as do the words lady & paradise).
It’s the rare writer who’s rolling in the dough (that meaning kicked in about 1851), but the literal side of the breadmaking connection offers some intriguing ways to think about writing fiction:
Bread baking involves simple, everyday ingredients, mixed into something new.
Without leavening, it’s not bread.
It needs to be proofed.
It needs a bunch of manhandling.
It has to rest between stages.
It’s best when shared with others.
Dear followers, what connections have I missed?
My thanks go out to this week’s sources, etymonline.com, take our word, & the OED.
Who would imagine the words dough, lady, & paradise would have a common root?
The connection hearkens back some 6000 years to the Proto-Indo-European word dheigh, dough. In a mere sixty centuries, dheigh morphed into the following words in the following ways:
Lady – At some level, the word lady is redundant. It certainly is breadworthy, It was constructed of the Old English term for one who kneads dough, dage, plus the Old English word for loaf, hlaf. A hlafdage was originally one who made loaves of bread. Over time, the pronunciation and spelling morphed to lady.
Paradise – Half this word started as the Greek combining form peri-, meaning around. We modern English speakers know this bit of Greek from the words perimeter, periscope, period, & periphery. The second part of paradise is our old Proto-Indo-European friend, dheigh, which may have started out meaning dough, but in time added the meaning to form or to build. History suggests the word paradise (form or build around) refers to a wall formed around such a garden or treasured place.
A bonus thought – in another branch of this twisted linguistic tree, the term dheigh or dough, also came to be spelled dey & referred to the servant who made the dough. We still see vestiges of dey in the modern name Doubleday, servant of the twin.
Of course, Proto-Indo-European was never written down. It’s a language reconstructed by linguists, “believed to have been spoken well before 4000 B.C. in a region somewhere to the north or south of the Black Sea” (OxfordDictionaries.com). Though hard-working forensic linguists would disagree, the very existence of Proto-Indo-European as a language adds up to well-researched conjecture…
My fellow junior etymologists, what comments do you have regarding bread-making servants, or redundant ladies, or the wall around paradise? Offer up some well-researched (or completely non-researched) conjecture.
My thanks go out to this week’s sources, etymonline.com, OxfordDictionaries.com, take our word, & the OED.
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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