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   Volume 82 - Issue 21 Website:www.passherald.ca   email: news@passherald.ca   $1.00   
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Quote of the Week
"Bear sightings are common for this time of year, because bears are waking up from hibernation. Eveyone needs to be bear aware."
- John Clarke  
Fish & Wildlife Officer   
   

 

Story
John Kinnear photo
D9 Caterpillar tractor, a swallowtail caterpillar.
Looking Back - John KinnearThe English language, with all its complexities and double meanings contains many words that were born, or grew, or acquired their meanings in an unusual manner. Most word sources can be traced back to Old English or French, Latin or Greek using dictionaries but tell us very little of how they came to be.
The job of defining word origins falls to lexicographers who are generally a dry, methodical lot, prepared to go to no ends to get a word's story right. One of America's most renowned lexicographers was Charles Earle Funk (that's right, from Funk and Wagnall). Mr. Funk's dissections of some of our more interesting words makes for good reading and it is some of his stories from his 1950 book "Thereby Hangs a Tale" that I'd like to share with you.
I'll start off with one of his simpler dissections just to wet your appetite.
Alligator: “English writers of the 16th century correctly called this creature a "lagarto". That is the Spanish name for this huge saurian -"lizard". But because Spaniards, like Arabs, are accustomed to put the definite article al before a noun--al lagarto, the lizard-- careless English writers assumed that this was a single word - allagarto. This became further corrupted in the 17th century to allegator and the present spelling became established in the early 18th century."
There, that wasn't too bad was it? Now here's one that will leave some heavy equipment operators at the mines shaking their heads.
Bulldozer: "After the American war between the States and the abolition of slavery, there was a natural tendency for the newly enfranchised Negroes of the South to vote for the political party represented by their emancipator, Abe Lincoln. (no kidding!) Southern whites objected. Violence and threats of violence sprang up toward the eve of all elections, continuing for many years. In Louisiana especially, the terrible bull whack, bull walloper, or bullwhip, as it was variously called, was employed to intimidate the Negro voters. This was a long, heavy, leather lash, fixed to a short wooden handle, and used chiefly by Texan drovers to keep strings of cattle from straying off the road. It is a matter of dispute whether the whites were the first to threaten refractory Negroes with a "dose of the bull", or whether Republican Negroes, spurred on by northern carpetbaggers, used the threat against such of their own brethren as were suspected of an intent to vote Democratic; but in either case the victim was first warned then flogged, "given the bulldose," as it was called. The term was spelled both bulldose and bulldoze. From it was developedbulldozer, a bully, one who wields the bulldose, who intimidated through superior power or strength. Thus, because of its great power, the mechanical bulldozer of today inherited the name.
Of course we here in the Crowsnest Pass have another name for the bulldozer and that is caterpillar, another word with an interesting history.
Caterpillar:  "Pilare is the Latin for "to grow hair" and gives an adjective pilosus, meaning "hairy". From this and their own word chat, a cat, the French formed chatepelose, "hairy cat", which may be compared to "wooly bear, “the common name by which English children refer to the same fuzzy creature, the caterpillar. The French word, chatepelose, was in due course taken into English; but the significance of the latter part of the word was not recognized. It was actually confused with the stem of the old English word "to pill," meaning "to strip or plunder," the idea being that the caterpillar strips leaves off trees. This is the reason why the spelling of the word has departed from the French form."   As we know the caterpillars at the mines around the Pass are more likely to take the top off of a mountain never mind strip the leaves off a tree!
 
As the final two NHL teams prepare to battle for the Stanley Cup let’s look into the origins of the word trophy. Trophy: "After a victorious battle it was a custom of the Greeks of early days to take from the field the arms of the enemy and hang them up on the stump of a tree in such a manner as to imitate an armed man, the helmet on top, breastplate about the stump, and shield, sword, and spear attached to branches left for the purpose. Such a monument was named tropaion, literally, "a turning point", for it signified the turning point of a battle, the place where the enemy had been put to flight. If the enemy permitted the monument to be erected it was a confession of defeat. The Greek term became tropaeum among the Romans, who followed a similar custom, but was later altered to trophaeum, from which our term trophy is derived.
Turning to things monetary Mr. Funk relates a fascinating story about the word "dollar".
Dollar:  Silver was discovered in the valley of the Joachim, a few miles west of Prague, in 1516. This valley was then part of the vast estate owned by the Count of Schlick and, as was then the custom, the Count decided to mint his own coins. The first of the coins was produced in 1518 and was intended to have the value of the gold florin then in circulation. Because the valley, and the town within it, had been named in honor of St. Joachim, the new coin bore a picture of the saint upon its face. For that reason the coin could be readily identified and , from the name of the valley where it was produced, was known as Joachimsthaler, literally, "of the valley of Joachim," from thal, valley. The name was contracted tothaler, and this in turn became daler in some of the German dialects and in the speech of the Low Countries. Thus the name came to England as dollar. Forgetful or ignorant of the source of the term- that it meant "of the valley" and thinking of it only as the name of a coin, the English used it to designate the Spanish pers duro, better known to us as "piece of eight" because of the large figure 8 on its face. This silver coin was widely circulated in colonial America, and thus the name dollar, already familiar, was applied to the unit of value in the United States when the first currency was minted in 1787."
My favourite color is purple and one of my favourite childhood memories is dying eggs purple using boiled vinegar and a "Paas" egg-dying kit. Early church memories bring back the image of our local priest bedecked in a brilliant purple and gold garment at Easter, the statues in the church shrouded in purple cloth and it seemed to me this color was relegated to special people and special occasions. Turns out I was right.
Purple: Hundreds of years before the Christian era the Phoenicians who dwelt along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea near Tyre discovered a curious shell fish attached to the adjacent rocks. This shellfish or mussel was found to yield a minute quantity of fluid which imparted a dark crimson color to cloth. It is said that the stain was first observed about the mouth of a dog which had crushed and eaten one of the mussels. The Greeks called this shellfish porphyros, because the color it yielded resembled the red volcanic rock that we call porphyry, then quarried in Egypt. The name was altered to purpura, in Latin, further corrupted in English to purple. The dye that was thus discovered became greatly desired because of its scarcity. The mussels were found only along shores nearby Tyre, and there was but a tiny amount in each mussel. None but emperors or men of great wealth could afford "Tyrian purple", as it was called. The dye, used only in the finest cloths, became the distinguishing mark of the dress of emperors and kings. Thus, the expression, "born to the purple", still denotes a person or royal birth.
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