or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Stringing Along

Short version. Watching "Dirty Jobs" last week, they kept referring to "guy wires" (which are used to steady objects such as tents), the captions kept using the phrase "guide wires" instead. Are the words related? Oh, yes. "Guy" comes from Old French "guier", "to guide", which eventually turned into "guider" in French, which led, bien sûr, to English "guide". (French didn't absorb it directly from Latin, but took it from a Germanic tongue instead.)

Long version. "Guide" is a member of an enormous family of words in English that got their start with the Indo-European "weid-", which turned into Latin "videre", "to see, to look". Not only obviousnesses such as "view", "vista", "video", and "visual" came from this root, as we shall see.

Other Germanic offshoots of "weid-" are "guise", the way something looks, and "disguise", changing the way something looks so as to make it unrecognizable. Latin, as we have seen, changed the "w-" to a "v-" and gave English a massive quantity of words including "advise" (to tell what you've seen), "evidence" (that which you've seen), "provide" (first "to foresee", later "to look after" in the sense of seeing what will be necessary and supplying it, still seen in the phrase "to provide for") and therefore "proviso" (a contractual stipulation, from the phrase "proviso quod", "it being provided that"). Also from Latin: metaphorical "envy", "interview" (literally, sight passing between two people), and "supervise" (to oversee), among others too numerous to list here.

From French, we have "survey", with the same meaning as Latin "supervise". From Greek, we get "wit" (to see something in the metaphorical sense of understanding it) and therefore "unwitting" (not having seen something) and "witness", "wisdom" and therefore "wise". Also from Greek, from "idein", which is yet another offshoot of "weid-": "idea", "ideal", and "ideology" (writing about ideas).



Blogger Thiltetu said...

This brings to mind all of the guard/ward, guile/wile, guarantee/warranty, etc., pairs in English

Saturday, August 11, 2007 2:51:00 AM  

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