or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Get Out!

I've mentioned the fascinating Blogging the Bible project on Slate.com before, and here's an etymological excursus from a recent entry:

Biblical ignorance confession: I never knew the scapegoat was a real goat! (Did you?) It appears in an extremely odd, yet poignant, passage. After Aaron purges the tabernacle, he takes a goat, lays his hands upon its head, confesses all the Israelites' sins to it—thus "putting them on the head of the goat." Then he exiles the goat to the wilderness, ridding the Israelites of their iniquities. Poor goat. (I cheated and looked at some commentary on this: It turns out that "scapegoat"—a version of "escape goat"—appears in Tyndale's first English translation of the Bible in 1530.)

Yeah, I did know all that, except the bit about Tyndale. There's another "scape-" word in English, "scapegrace", the derivation of which is pretty obvious: it means "scoundrel".

Something I did not know, however, is the etymology of "escape" and its offspring. It comes from, and this is entirely delightful, "ex-" plus "-cappa", "cloak", literally "to get out of one's cape"; when an enemy has you by the clothing and you manage to slip out of the garment and get away, you've escaped.


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