or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Brushing Up

When I'm quoting something, I like to have the source, but my browser crashed this morning (I usually have between five and twenty tabs open, and one of them did something bad) and I can't find the page that led to today's search, so you're just going to have to trust that I actually did see what I say I saw, and even if you don't, we still have a very interesting etymology ahead of us.

I'm quite certain that in a very recent Slate.com article, one I read this morning, I saw the words "abhor" and "horror" in the same paragraph. My first thought was, "If those words are related, then the editor should have changed one of them, because they're too similar to be in such close juxtaposition." My second thought was, "Hey, wait a minute: are those two words related?"

Oh, yes. The root of both of them is Latin "horrere", originally "to bristle". Something horrifying is something that makes your hair stand on end in fear, and when you abhor something, it makes you bristle as an angry cat does.

Better yet: the word "horripilation", means "having your hair stand on end"; it's almost redundant, because we have two root words, "horrere" and then "-pil-", from Latin "pilus", "hair", as in the pile of a carpet or the depilatory which de-hairs you.

And even better than that: "horrere" originates from Indo-European "ghers-", "to bristle", which led through Latin to English "urchin", both the bristly sea creature and the irritating child.


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