or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Friday, January 19, 2007


Apparently "fascia" has yet another meaning, as evidenced by this paragraph from a posting on The Consumerist:

A Sherwin-Willams' store incompetence totally messed up Fred's car. Look at that hood front quarter and nose fascia.

Car people sure love the word "fascia"!

Also, Ben Popkin should have written "A Sherwin-Williams store's incompetence...", but whatever.


I was reading something or other and the word "brothel" showed up, and I realized that I had no idea where it might have come from. It is an odd word, isn't it?

Let's start way back in May of 2005, when I wrote about related pairs of words that end in "-ch" and "-k", often with a change of vowel, such as "bank" and "bench".

Okay. "Brothel" has nothing to do with "broth", or "brother", or pretty much anything else you might think of, because it's gone through a whole bunch of changes in its life. "Brothel", which now means "whorehouse", originally actually meant "prostitute" (the noun, not the verb), which I guess is a case of synecdoche, the whole substituting for the part, in action. (It's really just a case of abbreviation: a whorehouse was also called a brothel-house, a house full of brothels, and the name was later abbreviated.)

"Brothel"-the-prostitute, in turn, came from the past tense of "brethen", "to fall to ruin", from Old English "breothan", "to decay". "Breothan", in its turn, came from "breutenan", "to break", and that was the clue. "Breutenan" calls to mind--to my mind, anyway--"breach", and "breach" and "break" are clearly related by their endings. Both words stem from Indo-European "bhong-", "to break" or "to beat". (Even the vowels are the same: I think it was the wildly differing vowel sounds that kept me from ever seeing the connection.)

And there we have it: breaking, decomposition, ruination, a ruined woman, and finally the house that employs her. Isn't that a hell of a thing?


Post a Comment

<< Home