or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Shopping, Part 1

Jim and I had a car this weekend, so today we were just bombing around, occasionally doing some shopping--groceries, a new window fan, what have you--but mostly just bombing around. Somewhere along the way, Jim happened to notice a street sign that contained the word "virage", which is French for "turn" or "turning": the suffix "-age" appears in many French words which are nouns crafted from verbs or other nouns, and it therefore it appears in a number of words that English borrowed from French such as "corsage"--"corps", "body", plus "-age", originally the bodice of a dress, then a tiny bouquet attached to that bodice--and "forage", literally "fodder-age", to search for food.

What Jim wondered aloud was whether, given the striking similarity between "virage" and "virago", there might be any connection. I was pretty sure there couldn't possibly be, though I averred that "virage" was related to English "veer". Right on both counts!

"Veer" does in fact come from French "virer", "to turn"; it pretty much has to, given that it has almost exactly the same sound and meaning. "Virago", though, has nothing to do with turning; it's from the Latin "vir", "man" (as in "virility" and, unexpectedly, "virtue"). A virago is a woman who is either, depending on the context and your point of view, strong and unafraid or loud and dominating. Evidently, someone thought that those qualities were the sole province of men. (More likely the first sense, "strong", earned the name "virago", "mannish", and then the word became corrupted to mean anything perceived to be unfeminine--loud, shrewish, and nasty.)

Shopping, Part 2 is here.


Post a Comment

<< Home