or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Thursday, March 08, 2007


Damn it is cold out there!

It's been horribly sub-arctic for days now here in eastern Canada. Yes, I know some non-Canadians think, "Well, isn't all of Canada cold all year round?", to which the answer is, "No, you lump." Moncton, it is true, is pretty cold in the winter (minus-forty days that suck all the air out of your lungs the second you step outside), but it's also pretty hot in the summer (and humid, too, which is worse) At any rate, this is just aberrant: it's been in the neighbourhood of thirty below for days now, and the wind isn't helping.

There are a lot of words in English for "cold", and most of them fall into one of three families. "Cold" itself is from the Indo-European root "gel-", which of course ought to look familiar since it's also an English word ("to freeze up", in essence, though not through the action of cold, as it turns out). "Gel-" also gave use "gelid" (cold), "congealed" (literally, "frozen together"), "gelatin", "jelly", and, with the change of a consonant, "cold" and "cool" and "chilly" as well.

The second family is from Latin "frigidus", which means, of course, "cold", and gave us "frigid" and "refrigerate" (though not, alas "frigate"). "Frigidus" did not give us "freeze", though you'd sure think it had. That's the third family of words: Indo-European "preus-", "to burn".

"To burn?" Yes, that's right. Haven't you ever heard of freezer burn? Or frostbite? Haven't you ever come in from an icy day and felt your exposed skin tight and burning? Haven't you ever heard of that nasty trick in which, in a roomful of smokers, you touch a piece of ice to the back of someone's neck, giving them the momentary sensation that they've been burnt?

"Preus-" gives us such burning words as "pruritis", which is a burning itch, and from there "prurience", which is a burning interest in something one ought not to be interested in. The cold sense is manifested in the Germanic "freeze" and "frozen", as well as "frost".

As I said, there are a lot of words for coldness in English, and some one-offs include "icy" (from German "eis"), "wintry" (from the German, again), and "glacial" (from French "glace", "ice", which in turn comes from Latin "glacia", all of which also gave us "glaze").

And that is quite enough talk about frigidity for one cold winter's day.


Post a Comment

<< Home