or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Monday, June 30, 2008

Wet Earth

A few years ago--a mind-boggling notion!--I wrote briefly about the word "humid", so you can think of this as kind of a recap, or a lazy retread (appropriate for a hot summer's evening).

I was thinking about this because it is, in fact, summer, and though it's been cool and wet so far, today turned sunny and warmed up considerably after two days of rain. As we were out running some errands--on foot, because we do not own a car--my mind turned to the word "humid", which the air was. "Humid", comes from "humere", Latin for "to be wet", which is a clear link to "humid" and also of "humour", a bodily fluid. ("Humour" in the sense of "something comic" or one of its related meanings is a refinement of the old idea that each of the four temperaments was controlled by a different bodily fluid; you can read all about it in that link above.) "Humere" in turn gave rise to "humidus", the adjectival form meaning "wet" or "damp".

Though I said that "humid" and "humus" are unrelated, and they are, the spelling of "humidus" and "humere" was influenced by "humus", because they started out as "umidus" and "umere" respectively.

As I was thinking about humidity, the other word that popped into my head was "humerus", an arm-bone (the one which connects the elbow to the shoulder), again obviously Latin but clearly not related to either of the words in question. This one is a misapprehension of the Latin word "umerus", "shoulder", which comes from an Indo-European words, "omesos", with the same meaning.


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