Adults have an unlimited number of ways to label the unwanted noise of children, and most those words are pretty interesting.
Because my father was the uncrowned king of foul language, I'm surprised to report that his default word for kid-noise (racket) was quite tame. Racket appeared in English in the 1560s, meaning loud noise. Racket appears to be imitative in nature, &/or may be related to the Gaelic word for noise, racaid. The added meaning dishonest activity came to English a bit later & most likely has to do with the purposeful noisy kerfuffle made by a pickpocket’s compadre with intent to distract the pickpocket’s victim. As used in the game of tennis, racquet came to English in the 1500s & appears to have come from the Arabic word rahat, meaning the palm of the hand (the precursor to the game of tennis looked a bit more like handball).
Clamor came to English through French in the late 1300s from a word meaning outcry, call or appeal.
In the early 1300s English picked up the word noise from an Old French word that meant din, disturbance or brawl. The Old French word came from a Latin word which was used figuratively to mean disgust, annoyance, or discomfort, but literally meant seasick. This Latin word was nausea.
One school of etymologists tells us a Low German word meaning cry like a cat gave us caterwaul. Another school argues that caterwaul came from adding the Dutch word cater (tomcat) to the Middle English word waul (to yowl). At least these two arguing groups both agree caterwaul appeared in English in the late 1300s.
Tumult comes from a Latin word meaning commotion, disturbance, or uproar, & — like clamor, noise, & caterwaul — arrived in English in the late 1300s. Tumult is related to the word tumere, meaning to be excited, to swell. Tumere also gave us tumor, tuber, & tumescent.
And last there is din, which the Old English spelled dyne. Din came through Germanic sources from a Proto-Indo-European word meaning to make noise.
Have any noise to make about all this? If so, please do so in the comments section.
My thanks go out to this week’s sources Etymonline, Collins Dictionary, Merriam Webster, Wordnik, & the OED.
Ronald A Perry
7/28/2022 03:20:51 pm
Hahahaha, Scott was awesome! Thanks for the chuckle Chet!
7/28/2022 07:14:49 pm
8/2/2022 04:36:17 pm
I've always loved the word "caterwaul". Both the possible etymologies make sense. Maybe they're both right?
8/2/2022 06:42:24 pm
I love the idea of two different sources merging to become one word. And why not with a fine word like caterwaul?
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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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