or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Friday, July 21, 2006

Field Studies

It was one of those "duh" moments. I was flipping through a Slate.com slideshow about the history of summer camps and there on page five was the following sentence:

Maine's Camp Wigwam, shown here in a site plan from the 1930 camp brochure, transformed its old parade ground into a "campus"—basically a large expanse of lawn—surrounded by an amphitheater, nature museum, arts and crafts studio, manual arts shop, and lodge nestled in the woods.

Gee, I thought: I wonder if "campus" is related to "camp"?

Well, duh!

Answers.com noted that "campus" is from the Latin for "field", and that's all I needed to know. The French "champs" means "fields", as in "Champs-Elysées", "Elysian Fields". Obviously "camp" and "campus" had to be from either the Latin or the French, and therefore obviously they were related. And why not? They both refer to expanses of green.

And then another thought occurred to me, at least partially mitigating my earlier feeling of stupidity: since "champs" is the French word for "fields", and since it looks like "champion", they must be related as well. And of course they are: a champion is an athlete who achieves his success out in the field.

The French word for "mushroom", "champignon", occasionally seen in English to denote a specific kind of mushroom, is also predictably from the same source. The verb "champ", though, as in "champing at the bit", isn't: it's almost surely onomatopoeic.


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