or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Thursday, May 01, 2008

It Just Won't Stop

On Tuesday I talked about a word ("nectary") which brought up another word ("gallery") which led me to tangentially mention the word "wall", about which I was going to add an extra sentence or two, because I figured, "Oh, it's probably just one of those words that cropped up in Old English." Wrong! And also more complicated than I would have guessed. So we're on day three of the Chain Of Words That Will Not End.

"Wall" is definitely not from French: their word is "mur", from Latin "murus", which of course gave English "mural", a painting on a wall, through "muralis". "Wall", far from being some random OE invention, is actually derived from Latin "vallum", a palisade, which is to say a wall made of pales, or fenceposts. (You can see how "palisade" and "pale" are related, with the addition of the French action suffix "-ade", as in "fusillade" and "renegade".)

"Vallum", in turn, comes from "vallus", a stake, post, or paling. "Vallus" also gave English another word for something which is tall and narrow: "wale", which is a ridge of some sort, such as the wound caused by a whip (also known as a "wheal", same word, or a "welt", which is unrelated, amazingly enough), or the textured nubby stripe of the fabric known as wide-wale corduroy. ("Wheal" is also spelled "weal", which is obviously unrelated to the "weal" of "commonweal"; that is related instead to "well", as in "well-being".)

"Pale" and "paling" in the sense of "stakes", by the way, come from Latin "palus", which also means "stake". (The other sense of "pale" comes from Latin "pallidus", which obviously gave birth to English "pallid"; "pallidus" is from "pallere", "to be pale".) "Palus" comes from an Indo-European root that is way too complicated to get into at this hour, and, while we're at it, the same is true of "pallere", which has, of course, a completely different IE root, so...you can wait until tomorrow, right?


Blogger D.J. said...

Also courtesy of our bloodthirsty Latin friends: "immure," to wall somebody or something away for the love of God, Montresor! (Occasionally seen in adjectival form as "mured up".)

Thursday, May 01, 2008 7:44:00 PM  

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