Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Tag Archives: word histories

More Conversation about Word Histories . . .


Last Wednesday, the current discussion was begun with the post, Blog Conversation About Word Histories; and, because it received a comment from a reader, I received the impetus that keeps me from starting a different conversation :-) Conversation about word histories

That post actually received two comments; and, I’ll share them after I share just enough of what I said to give them a proper context:

“Consider the idea that words have ‘souls’—the ‘true inner meaning’ of the word…

“Just like human souls, that original inner meaning is still there when the word is very, very old—much has changed about that word’s ‘personality and habits’; but, the inner meaning of its soul is eternally the same…”

I went on a bit about the idea that words have souls and their Etymologies (the histories of their meanings) are their “true inner meanings”…

Now, the first comment from the last part of the discussion:

“And there’s the the pulse of attitude, or vibration, especially with repeated sounds – words, phrases, called mantras in some cultures. They are loaded with usage and can have powerful effects.
“The word ‘soul’ has suffered in modern times, too imprecise, not verifiable by scientific methods – a shame because it sums up the essence of life and being.”

Apart from my feelings that science will one day find a way to “account” for the soul, it seems such a shame that more writers and readers don’t consider the etymologies of words…

Consider the definition of writing and this sentence:

“Susan was writing a letter to Tom in her mind that she wasn’t sure was something she could actually send him.”

We all know writing means something like, “mark (letters, words, or other symbols) on a surface, typically paper, with a pen, pencil, or similar implement.”

But, Susan was writing in her mind—marking words on the surface of ____________?

So, let’s consider the etymology (the soul) of “write” —> “carve, scratch, cut, paint, pull, tug, sketch, draw, design”

And, because Susan was somewhat torn about revealing her mental writing to Tom, could we rewrite that sentence as:

“Susan was carving out a space in her mind that she might not turn into a letter to Tom.”

Or…

“Susan’s mind was scratching out a plea to Tom; but, she didn’t have the will to actually paint the words…”

Perhaps those examples fall short of convincing anyone of the value of etymologies…

Good dictionaries do have appended etymologies; but, the use of a good Etymology Dictionary can be, in my estimation, a transformative experience…

So…

Consider the second comment from the previous discussion of word histories:

“I liked the part that words have souls, just as the 72 year old guy does, subjected to outside influences that continue long after the internal mechanisms for change and initial creation have succumbed to the resultant soul.”

Well…

At least one other soul likes the idea that words have souls…

What are Your feelings?

All it takes is one comment to keep this conversation going………
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Blog Conversation About Word Histories . . .


Etymology Blog Conversation

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license

Our last conversation was about Grammar—the final post, which had no comments, was, Further Conversation about Grammar, and has links to the two previous posts in the discussion…

The new conversation feature here (on Mondays & Wednesdays) continues the discussion when there’s at least one comment on any given post…

So…

I get to start a new conversation :-)

Many of you who’re reading this will have come across the word “Etymology”—some of you will know what it means…

The easy definition for etymology is “word history”—a longer one, from the Oxford Dictionary, is:

“The study of the origin of words and the way in which their meanings have changed throughout history.”

My favorite source for studying etymologies is the Online Etymology Dictionary; and, here’s the etymology of “Etymology”:

{ hang on to your mind—it’s long… }

late 14c., ethimolegia “facts of the origin and development of a word,” from Old French etimologieethimologie (14c., Modern French étymologie), from Latin etymologia, from Greek etymologia“analysis of a word to find its true origin,” properly “study of the true sense (of a word),” with -logia“study of, a speaking of” (see -logy) + etymon “true sense, original meaning,” neuter of etymos “true, real, actual,” related to eteos “true,” which perhaps is cognate with Sanskrit satyah, Gothic sunjis, Old English soð “true,” from a PIE *set- “be stable.” Latinized by Cicero as veriloquium.

In classical times, with reference to meanings; later, to histories. Classical etymologists, Christian and pagan, based their explanations on allegory and guesswork, lacking historical records as well as the scientific method to analyze them, and the discipline fell into disrepute that lasted a millennium. Flaubert [“Dictionary of Received Ideas”] wrote that the general view was that etymology was “the easiest thing in the world with the help of Latin and a little ingenuity.”

As a modern branch of linguistic science treating of the origin and evolution of words, from 1640s. As “account of the particular history of a word” from mid-15c. Related: Etymologicaletymologically.

As practised by Socrates in the Cratylus, etymology involves a claim about the underlying semantic content of the name, what it really means or indicates. This content is taken to have been put there by the ancient namegivers: giving an etymology is thus a matter of unwrapping or decoding a name to find the message the namegivers have placed inside. [Rachel Barney, “Socrates Agonistes: The Case of the Cratylus Etymologies,” in “Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy,” vol. xvi, 1998]

I’m pretty sure some of you scanned that blockquote very quickly; and, I probably totally lost a couple folks…

Still…

For writers and publishers (and, even readers) etymologies can be invaluable…

Yes, while there certainly are people who will argue strongly that the historical origin of a word can have very little to do with current usage, let me share a personal philosophical consideration:

Consider the idea that words have “souls”—the “true inner meaning” of the word…

Just like human souls, that original inner meaning is still there when the word is very, very old—much has changed about that word’s “personality and habits”; but, the inner meaning of its soul is eternally the same…

I just happen to be a 72-year-old man—been around the block many, many times; yet, still, in spite of the mileage my body and personality have racked up, my “true inner meaning” as a soul is the same as when I was created…

It’s certainly grown; but, being a soul, it maintains its core Meaning; otherwise, the guy sitting in this chair typing these words would have been ridiculously confused every moment of his life—I’d have had no anchor to tie down and organize the multitudinous events that have tried to force me into their mold, rather than having my soul integrate them into the expanding scaffold of my growing personality (which can often be confused; but, is eternally comforted by the etymology of my soul)………

I didn’t expect I’d write that last paragraph; but, I am a writer and, when my Muse grabs the wheel, she often takes me for some extremely surprising rides…

So…

All it will take to continue this discussion is a single comment from a reader…

Unless…

…that single comment is to suggest a different topic for conversation :-)
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If you don’t see a way to comment, try the link at the upper right of this post…
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

For Private Comments or Questions, Email: amzolt {at} gmail {dot} com
OR >>> Send Me a short Voice Message

How The Words Get On The Screen/Page ~ Part One


Even though my theories of word creation and transmission are my own conceptions, they are based on years of study–with Carl Jung, my Muse, other psychologists, various spiritual mentors, arguments with myself, and conversations with other writers.

I find Jung’s ideas of the Mind the most useful because they’ve proven their practical value.

Let’s start with a word-symbol formula of the full process, from word-creation to word use, by showing the various areas of mind/body involved, in the order they’re activated:

Collective Unconscious–>Personal Unconscious–>Shadow–>Conscious Mind–>Brain–>Body–>Screen/Paper

Collective Unconscious: This is where all the Archetypes hang out and have sex with each other. The CU is full of Psychological Energy Patterns like Mother, Father, Child, Lover, Murder, Transmutation, Hero, Wise Old Person, and tons more. For more background knowledge check out this entry in Wikipedia.

These metaphysical entities are called Psychological Energy Patterns because they have no specific conscious form. For instance, the Mother Archetype is no ones’ particular mother and has no particular traits or personality–She belongs to all of us since this is the Collective Unconscious. In a way, she contains all the possible traits and powers of all possible mothers. She’s also the source of the word, “mother”.

All these Energy Patterns are always blending and interacting–having “Sex”. This constant creative activity, deep within us, is the ultimate source of all our thoughts since it’s believed the Collective Unconscious gives birth to the Conscious Mind.

The qualities of the main, person-like Archetypes are what give birth to the characters of a story; their interactions are what produces the plot.

But, we don’t just peer into the CU with our ego-mind and snatch plot, character, and word.

By the way, it’s the intense, creative interactions of all the Archetypes that produce what I’ve been calling Real Words. The Words that hold the complete Meanings. For example, not the mere word-symbol, “tree”, or the various forms of the personal word, “Tree”, that each of us has packed with slightly different Meanings, but the Real Word, “TREE”, that contains all of whatever can be considered Tree-ness

Personal Unconscious:

This is where the broad, ultra-creative, endlessly active Words produced by the Interactions of the Archetypes become more like what most people call “words”.

The PU is where we can get a first glimpse of an image of a mother or a tree or a murderer.

The PU also has a lively interaction with the Conscious Mind and stores memories and concepts and words that the Conscious Mind has labored over. But it uses the infusion of creativity from the Collective Unconscious to massage the memories/concepts/words so that, even though the word “tree” is there in the Personal Unconscious all the time, it’s being “worked-on” by both the Collective and Conscious Mind–it’s evolving

Also, the words in the Personal Unconscious are the ones that have the normal “word-histories” that an etymology dictionary contains.

This mutual interaction of Collective Unconscious with Personal Unconscious and Personal Unconscious with Conscious Mind aren’t the only instances of creative “loops” in that schematic, straight-line formula I proposed earlier:

Collective Unconscious–>Personal Unconscious–>Shadow–>Conscious Mind–>Brain–>Body–>Screen/Paper

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