It's pretty darn toasty in many places this summer, so I'm hoping this post can counteract the heat with a bit of chilling .
The word chill came from the Old English word ciele, which meant cold, coolness, frost, or to freeze. Ciele’s source was the Proto-Indo-European word gel-, which gave birth to heaps of modern English words.
Given what liquids do when they cool down, it’s not much of a stretch to see how a word meaning to freeze could be the parent of gel, gelatin & Jello. Gelatin, meaning a clear, jelly-like substance, appeared in 1713 after spending a couple of centuries in France as gélatine. Gel, an abbreviated form of gelatin showed up in English in 1899, meaning a semi-solid substance. Jelly’s parent-word also spent some time in France (as gelee) before moving across the channel to, well, jell into the word we know. And in 1900 the Genesee Pure Food Company started selling a product called Jello.
A Latin step-child of gel- also made its way into France, then to England in 1650 as glacial. And by 1744 the noun glacier was born.
And what happened to gel- on its way through German and Old English? It became both cool & cold.
Because water expands upon freezing, gel- is the parent-word for the Old German word gelb-, to swell, & because a cow swells prior to giving birth, gelb- is the parent-word of calf. So calving of a glacier = Cold of a cold? Frost of a frost? Gel of the Jello? Inquiring minds...
As much of the nation is swept up in a heat wave, I’m hoping most of you are getting the occasional chance to chill. I also hope you’ll find a minute to comment on all this chilling in the comments section.
Big thanks to this week’s sources: Etymonline, Wordnik, Collins Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, & 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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