Lately, it's been far too easy to focus on "what those people are doing." I'm thinking we can improve the next year by focusing instead on what we ourselves are doing.. For instance, giving.
Give is a word that has been with English speakers for a very long time – actually, even before we had a language called English. Give takes up a whopping seven and a half pages of the OED & has seventy-two meanings, both transitive & intransitive. Wow.
Give came from the Proto-Indo-European word ghabh-, which interestingly meant to have, to hold, to give & to receive. Talk about ann all-purpose word.
Some intriguing bits of trivia:
-The reason we can give someone a cold is the thankfully forgotten belief that by infecting others we can heal ourselves (give someone a cold while taking that person’s health).
-In Old English give started with a y & was spelled yiven (mostly). Nobody knows why, but it looks as though give’s Old Norse cousin gefa (give) influenced it enough to change that initial letter.
-The idiom I don’t give a ____ has been around since the 1300s. Early words that filled in the blank were a straw, a grass & a mite.
-The idiom what gives? was born in the 1940s.
-The related word gift showed up in the 1300s. In Swedish, gift means poison.
-One of the earliest English meanings of gift was natural talent, inspiration.
-Idioms that employ the word give include:
-give the finger
-give someone a break
-give the shirt off one’s back
-give someone the shaft
-give someone the nod
-give someone the evil eye
-give someone five
-give someone the creeps
-give someone a shot
-give someone the third degree
-give someone the low down
-give someone the green light
-give someone a hard time
-give someone a hand
-give someone some skin
-don’t give up our day jobs
In the coming year, may we all be able to focus on our own actions more than the actions of others, and may we all find many ways to give..
Big thanks to this week’s sources Learn American English Online, Wordnik, Etymonline,& the OED
Lois Lowry’s The Giver is a fantastic teen/middle grade read, & has been since it showed up in 1994. In 2013, the final book in The Giver Quartet appeared, titled Son. This fourth book offers an intriguing look into the wonders & challenges of love.
For this week’s post, we’ll take a look at the etymologies of the words Lowry used for her titles in The Giver Quartet books: The Giver, Gathering Blue, The Messenger, & Son.
The word give came to Old English as giefan, to give, bestow, allot, grant, commit, devote or entrust. It has close relatives in Old Frisian, Dutch, German & Gothic, & all those find their roots in the Proto-Indo-European word ghabh-, to take hold, have, or give. That same root spawned the word habit.
The word gathering entered English in the 1100s, as gaderung & meant meeting. It came from the Old English verb, gaedrian, to unite, agree, gather, collect, or store up. It’s related to German, Dutch, Old Frisian & Gothic words with these meanings: unite, husband, spouse, fellow, & join.
Messenger came to English as messager from Old French about 1200, meaning envoy, ambassador or messenger. Linguists call the n that showed up two centuries later parasitic, as it showed up “for no apparent reason except that people liked to say it that way.” Interestingly, the noun message was derived from the verb messager, appearing in the 1300s, meaning communication transferred via a messenger. Messenger is related through its French grandmother & Latin great grandmother to transmit, mission, emissary, & submit.
Had Lowry’s fourth book, Son, been published in Old English, it would have been titled Sunu, meaning – what a surprise – son. Other Germanic language brothers of son include sonr, zoon, sone, sunuz, sohn & sunus. All of these words herald from the Sanskrit verb su, to give birth.
Fellow writers, what can you pull out of these etymologies that you would hope for your own work? Fellow readers, what do you find in these etymologies that you look for in your Next Great Read? Please let us all know in the comments section.
My thanks go out to this week’s sources The OED, Merriam-Webster, & 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.