We all know what eavesdropping means, but have you ever wondered what listening-in has to do with eaves or dropping? It’s always given me a mental image of someone up in the eaves trying to conceal themselves.
The actual origin isn’t quite as funny as that, but I thought it was pretty interesting.
Originally the eavesdrop (Old English yfesdrype) was the area outside a house where water ran off the eaves. So probably not where you want to stand when it’s raining, but apparently where you could stand to try and hear what being said inside the house.
I like this because both because it’s a lovely image of life before the invention of the downpipe and a disturbing image of how thin walls were!
I read the other day that ‘awe’ and ‘wonder’ are synonyms, but ‘awful’ and ‘wonderful’ are antonyms. I’d never noticed. It’s kind of cool.
I just learnt that 500 exabits is half a zettabit. Who knew?
In a recent doco looking at a major alternative lifestyle and spirituality festival, there was a moment where a large audience of festival goers emotionally sang along to Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. This struck me as a bit odd. After all, many of these people have beliefs that are anything but Abrahamic and I’d always understood the word to belong to Christianity/Judaism.
So, I looked it up.
What interested me, was that Hallelujah in Hebrew is a phrase which means Praise Yah, as in ‘you should praise Yahweh’ so it’s actually an exhortation to praise God. That’s a pretty long way from how we use it – whether you’re religious or not.
We use it more in praise or thanks, which is closer to the Greek version Alleluia which, of course, comes from the same Hebrew phrase as Hallelujah.
So really, to sing the song as a song of thanks, or praise to a higher being, it should technically be Alleluia. And possibly it should be sung by those who actually believe in Yahweh. Though it a beautiful song… maybe I’m being too literal?
In one of those quirks of language, it seems the /ˈkyo͞obit/ is about to make a comeback.
Cubits, of course are a very old unit of measurement, based on the length of a forearm.
Qubits are a very new one, describing a unit of quantum information.
Analogous to the ‘bit’ used in current computing (think bits and bytes), the qubit is likely to represent the next leap in technology. Yet it reminds me of that much simpler way of describing the world through tangible, physical things.
Kind of cool, no?
Today I spelt freak ‘freque’.
Well, why not?
Interestingly, there’s no definite origin for ‘freak’, though it’s an old word dating from the 1500s.
In doing a little word-nerdy origin hunting, I was overjoyed to discover that both ‘yard’ and ‘garden’ come from the Old English word ‘geard’ which basically meant a house-related enclosure.
Geard itself comes from germanic roots, going back quite a way, so you can see how long we’ve have little sectioned off areas around our dwellings.
In my local area there is a shop called “Indian Shop”. I admire the descriptive simplicity.
Since learning some german years ago, I’ve often wondered just how offensive ‘swinehund’ was. Being called a pig dog just didn’t seem that bad. But on looking into the history of the word ‘bitch’ I came across this from the Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, 1811:
BITCH. A she dog, or doggess; the most offensive appellation that can be given to an English woman, even more provoking than that of whore.
Not exactly what I expected…