Sunday, August 27, 2023

Faggots, Fajitas, and Fauci Goes to Hollywood

What if I told you that the US House of Representatives is the very seat of Fascism on earth? Half the US population would say "Aha! I knew it." The other half would scoff "Ha!"

OK, what if I told you the US House of Representatives is a bunch of faggots? Glorious, resplendent faggots.

All this is true… and more.

Here are the facts. How many times have you seen this image, the rostrum of the House and the site of State of the Union speeches (paper tearing and all)? What are those immense golden objects on either side of Old Glory?

They're faggots. Literally. Trust me on this.

Ha! You thought you knew what a faggot was. Well, you do. Sadly, we're more comfortable with what we think we know about the definition of faggot than we are the definition of fascism.

Let me quit prancing around the topic and plunge straight in. The great symbol astride the US flag is indeed a bundle of sticks, with an axe buried inside. Guess how many sticks comprise the bundle? You were right, thirteen. One bundle comprised of thirteen separate entities – e pluribus unum, one might dare to say.

The motif is actually called a "fasces" and actually predates the ancient Roman Empire (but would be popularized again in modern Italy). In old Latin, the symbol was called a bipennis, but obviously that's a different story. Fasces has always been a visual metaphor for the bundling power of government. Whether people, states, wealth, manufacturing, or other categories, the word fasces means, shall we say, strength in numbers. But why was I leaning into the whole faggot narrative? That was uncomfortable, right?

In fact, the word faggot holds precisely and exactly the same visual reference as fasces. In times long past by, a homosexual was not a highly regarded member of society. In fact, in Europe for many centuries, homosexuals were punished with various tribulations, often by being burned at the stake. Now, in the creativity of your mind, how do you think the burning fire was stoked? Yes, dear, by throwing bundles of wood – faggots – at the feet of the un-treasured person. If, however, the grace of the community or potentate fell upon the homosexual and they were spared the flame of faggots, they would likely be tattooed or otherwise labeled  with… a bundle of sticks. Kind of a born-this-way scarlet letter.

Still with me? Now, I have often asked the universe to put me in charge of naming things. At its own peril, time, matter, and energy have resisted me. Here's a good example:

This package is a junior high boy's snicker in America, but in Italy (here we go again), it simply means bundle – a bundle of minced food wrapped in a pasta bandana (bundle and bandana being etymologically related, of course).

And fagottini are not the only delicioso food that hold the meaning of bundle. My beloved fajitas are simply a bundle of muscle fibers. Some of us aging un-athletic persons suffer pain of the plantar fasciitis which is a bundle of connective tissue in the dadgum foot… but in polite society we don't eat that part.

So that leaves only one f-word for us to still explore – fascism. Cognitive dissonantly, the same image of a bundle of sticks (with hatchet) that is the symbol of the pro-capitalist, pro-private ownership of property American democratic republic was also a chosen symbol of the Italian fascist movement (fascismo) of the early-to-mid-20th century. It's all true.

In the label-crazy 21st century, the word "fascist" is hurled more frequently and zealously than yo-mama-so-fat jokes. But, alas, there is only one definition and one political ideology aspiring to actually achieve modern fascism. Limited government, free and open democratic elections, private capitalistic enterprise, private ownership of property, and individual freedom of association and self-determination are not the hallmarks of fascism.

Beginning in the 1920s, Mussolini (Bennie the Moose, to his friends) sought an economic system in which employers (known in polite society as business founders/owners/investors) and employees are bound together in "associations" that bundle with the state to set national economic policy. Although the great dictators of the 20th century disagreed on which label/logo to use, Fascism is in the same category of political/economic theory as Marxism, Communism, Nazism, etc. Why do I say that? Simply because in these isms the State owns/controls the means of production and goods, services, and benefits are distributed to individuals by the central command of the government based on its rubric, not the individual's merit. (If you'd like an great explanation from someone with a bigger microphone than me, I recommend this.)

When previously private/corporate healthcare "insurance" gets bundled with federal government power you have a great example of Fascism. Housing solutions funded, owned, or managed by government is another wonderful example. If you need more examples, why, just ask me!

I once ate a pizza in San Francisco at a cute little joint named Cinecittà. Now closed, you can still almost hear the echoes of waiters lilting "scuze" and "pronto" out over Washington Square. How charming… until you do your research and come to the gross realization that the original Cinecittà* was a full-blown movie-industrial complex run by Mussolini's own son, Vittorio. The slogan? Why of course, "Il cinema è l'arma più forte!" ("cinema is the most powerful weapon!"). Just imagine America's Hollywood, not run by Harvey Weinstein. Martin Scorsese, and Quinton Tarantino, but by Rahm Emanuel, Anthony Fauci, and Elizabeth Warren. Now that's some bundling that even Progressive Insurance would be proud of!

Faggots, fajitas, fascism. What a fascinating bundle of words. Fascinate. (It gets weird.)

* - You'll be more than a little surprised at some of the major - old and new - movies filmed at Cinecittà studios.

Friday, February 28, 2020

Warm Wishes, Burning with Desire

It's been a long time since I fed this BackWords blog, so let's make this entry count. Here at BackWords, I try to show connections between word cousins who have branched off the family tree in various directions at various times. I base my musings on ancient root words, some of which are extinct, but their word limbs and leaves are doing just fine.

Today's ancient root is gwher which means to heat or be warm. The pronunciation of the root is not as important as watching the elements of it morph. The r in the back half of the root is not going to change, or even move. But boy, that front half is hopping on a word roller-coaster. Let's go along for the ride with it.

Let's start with heat itself, how do we measure temperature? With a thermometer. The gwh picked up the th sound and adds the r sound. You carry your coffee in a Thermos and drink it to prevent hypothermia. The Greek town of Thermopylae was the site of a hot springs.

In the history of words, th sounds don't object at all to being pronounced as ph or f sounds. So we get a f-r sound to refer to hot things like furnace and we pick up hot items with forceps. Want to get down and dirty? What if I told you that fornicate finds a home in this family tree? I think we see how heat and warmth attach to the idea of human intimacy. This is a G-rated blog, don't make me spell it out for you.

As words sounds wind their way through history, it's pretty common for the p in the ph sound to just flip upside down. p becomes b. Where we just met a bunch of ph-r or f-r sounds, now we have a great big family of b-r words. 

With the exception of three historical characters, toss anything in the furnace and it gets burned. Brandy is literally "burnt wine"... and it will make you feel warm inside.

I'm especially fond of cattle brands (but I promise I have never branded a cattle). A brand makes a mark by burning flesh. (In the modern world, a corporate brand is simply the company's mark, how they are identified in the marketplace.) Before man put iron brands in the fire, he (or she) simply burned wood. Fire not only provided warmth and cooked food, but a fire also provided protection. A lonely hunter/gatherer confronted with a pack of wily coyotes would lift up a log - a firebrand - and brandish it about, hopefully dispelling the danger. Today, the cops keep on the lookout for folks brandishing a weapon - waving around a gun or knife just like our ancestors brandished burning logs.  

I've taken a recent interest in the art of sculpting. A skilled artist will create a thing of beauty from humble clay... and then the magic begins. A forge (an over-achieving furnace) (hailing from our ph/f-r root) will almost burn a particular kind of metal - bronze (hailing from our b-r root). Bronze is poured into a mold and once cooled, the bronze can be burnished until it takes on a warm glow. 

Pretty cool, I mean warm.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

BackWords On Some Jewish Names

I recently came across an article about Jewish names, specifically Ashkenazic Jews living in central
and eastern Europe. The article gave the meaning of a name and why that word was used as a name for people. But the article did not actually dive into the etymology of the word.

For example, one favorite Jewish name from my 1970s teen years is "Garfunkel" which means diamond or jewel dealer. It derives from the Yiddish word gorfinkl which means ‘carbuncle’, German Karfunkel. This term denoted both a red precious or semi-precious stone, especially a garnet or ruby cut into a rounded shape (in which case it is an ornamental name), and a large inflamed growth on the skin like a large boil (in which case it is a descriptive nickname).

In essence, Garfunkel was a name given to a person based on what he sold.

Here then is the list of names. The original article provided the meanings after which ... I have added the etymology.

Ashkenazic Jewish Names with Etymologies

Names that are obvious… the root word of the name is easily observed in English.
Baker/Boker — baker
Cooperman — coppersmith
Fisher — fisherman
Glazer/Glass/Sklar — glazier
Miller — miller
Sandler/Shuster — shoemaker
Wasserman — water carrier
Schmidt — blacksmith
Goldstein — goldsmith
Silverstein — jeweler
Stein/Steiner/Stone — jeweler
Salzman — salt merchant
Tabachnik — snuff seller
Wachsman — wax dealer
Wollman — wool merchant
Zucker/Zuckerman — sugar merchant
Nadelman/Nudelman — also tailor from “needle’
Sher/Sherman — also tailor from “scissors” or “shears”
Presser/Pressman — clothing presser
Weber — weaver
Wine/Weinglass — wine merchant
Weiner — wine maker
Cantor/Kazan/Singer — cantor or song leader in shul
Rabin — rabbi (Rabinowitz—son of rabbi)
Spector — inspector or supervisor of schools
Springer — lively person, from the Yiddish springen for jump
Baer/Berman/Beerman/Berkowitz/Beronson — bear
Karp — carp
Falk — falcon

Names, their meanings, and the etymology of the meaning


Ackerman — plowman … from the Middle English word acker "field". It was an occupational name for a farmer who did not own the fields (acres) he worked.
Blecher — tinsmith … from German blech "tin"
Fleisher/Fleishman — butcher … literally "flesh-man" or flesh cutter
Katzoff — butcher … no details
Metger — butcher … literally "meat-er", one who handles meat
Drucker — printer … occupational name for a printer, from German Drucker or Yiddish druker ‘printer’, derives from German drucken, Yiddish drukn ‘to print’, derived from a southern dialect variant of drücken ‘to press’.
Einstein — mason … literally one (ein) + stone (Stein), supposedly one who sets one stone at a time.
Farber — painter/dyer …   one who dyed cloth, "a dyer" from German farbe "colour".
Forman — driver/teamster … derived from Middle High German vuorman "cartwright". … one who conveyed passengers by boat across a stream; a ferryman.
Garber/Gerber—tanner … no details
Graber — engraver … derivative of Middle High German graben ‘to dig or excavate’, hence an occupational name for a digger of graves or ditches, or an engraver of seals
Kastner — cabinet maker … occupational name for a joiner or furniture maker, from South German kasten ‘box’, ‘chest’ (related to cask?), derivative of Middle High German kiste ‘(clothes) chest’
Kunstler — artist … no details
Kramer — store keeper … occupational name for a shopkeeper, peddler, or hawker, derivative of Middle High German, Middle Low German kram ‘trading post’, ‘tent’, ‘booth’. 
Nagler — nail maker … occupational name for a nail maker, from Middle High German, Middle Dutch nagel ‘nail’
Plotnick — carpenter … occupational name from Russian plotnik ‘carpenter’ (originally a maker of wattles and wooden fences, from plot ‘plaited or woven object’).
Kovalsky — blacksmith … habitational name for someone from any of various places called Kovali, named with eastern Slavic koval ‘smith’.
Shnitzer — carver … no details
Feinstein — jeweler … ornamental name composed of German fein ‘fine’ + stein ‘stone’
Spielman — player (musician?) … Dutch: occupational name for a musician, tumbler or jester, from spelen ‘to play’ + man ‘man’.


Garfinkel/Garfunkel — diamond dealer … ornamental name or nickname from Yiddish gorfinkl ‘carbuncle’, German Karfunkel. This term denoted both a red precious or semi-precious stone, especially a garnet or ruby cut into a rounded shape (in which case it is an ornamental name), and a large inflamed growth on the skin like a large boil (in which case it is a descriptive nickname).
Holzman/Holtz/Waldman — timber dealer … occupational name for a woodcutter or someone who sold wood, from German holz ‘wood’ + Mann ‘man’.
Waldman — timber dealer … from Yiddish wald ‘forest’ + man ‘man’
Kaufman — merchant … no details
Rokeach — spice merchant … no details
Seid/Seidman—silk merchant … from Middle High German sīde, German Seide ‘silk’ (from Late Latin seta, originally denoting animal hair)
Tuchman — cloth merchant … from Middle Low German tuch ‘stuff’, ‘tack’, ‘clothes’
Wechsler — money changer … no details
Halphan — money changer … no details

Related to tailoring

Kravitz — tailor … no details
Portnoy — tailor … occupational name for a tailor from Russian portnoj (an adjective derivative of port ‘uncut cloth’)
Schneider/Snyder — tailor … occupational name for a tailor, literally ‘cutter’, from German schneiden (“to cut”)
Futterman — furrier … from Yiddish futer ‘fur’, ‘fur coat’ + Yiddish man ‘man’
Kirshner/Kushner — furrier … no details
Peltz — furrier … from Middle High German bellez, German Pelz ‘fur’, ‘(animal) skin’


Aptheker — druggist … from Greek apotheke "barn, storehouse," literally "a place where things are put away," from apo- "away" + tithenai "to put,"
Feldsher — surgeon … no details
Bader/Teller — barber … occupational name for an attendant in or owner of a public bath house, derivative of Middle High German bat ‘bath’ (Old High German bad), German Bad. In former times, such attendants undertook a variety of functions, including blood-letting, tooth-pulling, and hair-cutting

Related to liquor trade

Bronfman — distiller … from Yiddish bronf ‘alcohol’, ‘vodka’, ‘spirits’ + man ‘man’.
Brand/Brandler/Brenner — distiller … derivative of Middle High German brennen ‘to burn’, in various applications.
Braverman — brewer … form of German Bräuer, an occupational name for a brewer of beer or ale
Meltzer — brewer … occupational name for a maltster, a brewer who used malt
Kabakoff — tavern keeper … no details
Krieger — tavern keeper … one who made and sold drinking vessels; the warrior or champion; descendant of Gregorius (watchman)
Vigoda — tavern keeper … no details
Geffen — wine merchant … ornamental name from Hebrew gefen ‘vine’


Altshul/Althshuler — associated with the old synagogue in Prague … literally "old school" – alt = old, shul – school or synagogue
Feder/Federman — scribe … occupational name for a trader in feathers or in quill pens
Haver — from haver (court official) … unclear
Klausner — rabbi for small congregation … from Middle High German klōsenære, and German Klausner ‘hermit’ (from Latin clausum ‘cell’, ‘shut-away place’), hence a topographic name for someone living by a hermit’s cell or a byname for a hermit.
Klopman — calls people to morning prayers by knocking on their window shutters … onomatopoeic (referring to the sound made)
Lehrer — teacher … from Yiddish lerer ‘teacher’
Malamud/Malmud — teacher … unclear
London — scholar, from the Hebrew lamden (misunderstood by immigration inspectors)
Reznick — ritual slaughterer … Czech and Slovak: occupational name for a butcher
Richter — judge … occupational name or status name for an arbiter or judge, Middle High German rihtære (from rihten ‘to make right’)
Sandek — godfather … no details
Schechter/Schachter/Shuchter etc. — ritual slaughterer … derivative of shekhtn, of which the stem is from Hebrew shachat ‘to slaughter’
Shofer/Sofer/Schaeffer — scribe … derivative of German Schaf, Middle High German schāf ‘sheep’ (probably derives to the making of parchment to write on)
Shulman/Skolnick — sexton … from Polish szkolnik, Belorussian shkolnik ‘sexton in a synagogue’
Spivack — cantor or song leader in shul … from Ukrainian spivak ‘singer’


Alter/Alterman — old … alt = old
Dreyfus—three legged, perhaps referring to someone who walked with a cane … Jewish (western Ashkenazic): habitational name from Trevis, an old name of the city of Trier on the Mosel, known in French as Trèves; both the French and German names come from Latin Augusta Treverorum ‘city of Augustus among the Treveri’, a Celtic tribal name of uncertain origin. The form of the surname has been altered from Trevis by association with modern German Dreifuss ‘tripod’.
Erlich — honest … from Yiddish erlekh ‘honest’, ‘virtuous’
Frum — devout … from German fromm ‘devout’, ‘pious’
Gottleib — God lover, perhaps referring to someone very devout
Geller/Gelber — yellow, perhaps referring to someone with blond hair … from Middle High German gel = yellow
Gross/Grossman — big … from Late Latin grossus "thick, coarse (of food or mind)
Gruber — coarse or vulgar … nickname from an inflected form of Yiddish dialect grub ‘rude, impolite’
Feifer/Pfeifer — whistler … derivative of Middle High German pfif(e), German Pfeife ‘whistle’, ‘pipe’, hence an occupational name for a pipe player
Fried/Friedman—happy … from Yiddish frid ‘peace’
Hoch/Hochman — tall … meaning high
Langer/Langerman — tall … meaning long
Klein/Kleinman — small … no details
Koenig — king, perhaps someone who was chosen as a “Purim King,” in reality a poor wretch … no details
Krauss — curly, as in curly hair … no details
Kurtz/Kurtzman — short … from Latin curtus "(cut) short, shortened, incomplete," 
Reich/Reichman — rich … from ancient root reg- "move in a straight line," hence, "direct, rule", also related to Latin rex (king)
Reisser — giant … no details
Roth/Rothman — red head … from Middle High German rot meaning "red"
Roth/Rothbard — red beard … from Middle High German rot meaning "red"
Shein/Schoen/Schoenman — pretty, handsome … carries the connotation of being blessed, literally mean "dweller in a bright spot"
Schwartz/Shwartzman/Charney — black hair or dark complexion … no details
Scharf/Scharfman — sharp, i.e  intelligent … from ancient root (s)ker- "to cut"

Stark — strong … from ancient root *ster- "stiff, rigid" i.e. not easily bent or moved


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Just the Fax, Ma’am

We’re going on a wild one today.  Buckle up!   The P.I.E. Root dhe- carries a meaning of to set or put.  Let’s start with a modern word that is pretty straightforward – do.  When you do something, you take action to set or put.  Think of a “hair do” or getting your hair “done” – the stylist sets it or puts the hair in a certain way.  It appears that abdomen belongs in this group – it is a thing that is put or set inside the body.  Another clearly related word is deem.  When deem a matter concluded you put or set judgment on it.  Closely related is doom, when a person or thing’s fate is set.  Another word fits in here – condiment.  “Com” means together. The “di” in condiment is our root dhe-.  A condiment is something you put together with the main thing you are eating – such as putting mustard together with on a hot dog.

The rest of our words today are going to do a little “sliding sideways”.  If you’ve read my prior SS posts, you’ve discovered how letter sounds can shape shift occasionally – a dh sound (where the h is often silent) becomes a ph/f sound.  (And see this post where we saw bhel- become phel-) If something is said to be a fact, it is set, like “set in stone”.  A factory is a place that puts things together.  Not surprisingly, the idea “to make” is one the most common ideas in language.  A benefactor [bene (good) + factor (make)] is someone who makes (or gives) something good to someone else.  A malefactor [mal- (bad)] is one who makes bad for others.  A facsimile [simile (same)] machine sends the same image somewhere else.  An artifact [art (skill)] is something made, usually implying made long ago.

This idea of make goes much, much further.  Suffixes like –fice, -fect, and –fy tip us off to make words.  If something suffices, it makes (-fice) up to (sub) expectations.  Watching  “The Opfice” sounds funny, so we change the p to another f and watch people  working (making) together [op (work) + fice (make)].  An effect [ex (out of)] is a result that is made out of something else – think sound effect.  Perfect [per (completely or thoroughly)] means to set or put something all the way, lacking nothing, and reaching the intended effect.  Affection [af (a variant of ad-, to)] suggests making toward someone else (uh, sorta like “making out”… sorta).  Oddly enough, a confection is the same word formula as condiment (together + make), but has a much sweeter meaning.  When you satistfy [satis (enough) + fy (do)] you do or make enough to meet the expectations of others.  When you amplify [ample (large)] you make something louder / bigger / larger.  When you do something stupid and you try to justify yourself, you are trying to show how your action was just or right.  Many other words such as feasible, feasance / malfeasance, notify (make notice), manufacture (make with hands - like manual labor), orifice (make an opening - like oral), qualify (make an amount), and rectify (make right) all point back to the idea of “make”. 

A faction is a gang made out of a larger group.  Fashion means to make something and has come to refer to clothing (and more) that has been fashioned.  A face reveals the form of something – facet, façade, facial, deface, and surface all carry this sense.  A faculty is a group of people who facilitate learning experiences – hopefully their classes are not to difficult [dif (from dis meaning away or negative) + fic (from fac… make)]. 

Now, did you ever mistake hearing a d for t*?  That’s another way letters in words can slide sideways.  Let’s roll all the way back to our root dhe- and make it the- as in theme or hypothesis where you make or put forward an idea.  Do you remember ever hearing the wonderful word apothecary.  Literally, apothecary means "put away" [apo (away, as in apostasy) + the- (put)].  In Latin, an apothecary is any shopkeeper (who puts away the wares in their stores – “store” itself meaning a place of holding / keeping), but especially those who deal with herbs and other medicinals.  The apothecary didn’t put away his medicines because they were dangerous, but because they were perishable and needed to be stored carefully.  The t/d sound in boutique and bodega (also meaning store) come directly to us from this ancient root for set or put.

*As if anyone cares, d and t are very similar phonetically.  D is voiced alveolar plosive.  T is a voiceless alveolar plosive.  Don't worry, I'm not going to start a blog on phonic sounds and relationships, but their similar sounds explains why bodega and boutique look quite different but sound similar and mean very similar things.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Snowbound and Thinking of Blooms

As I write, the Heartland of all America is buried under about 15” of globally warm snow.  Three major storms in the last month have layered up quite nicely on the World’s Breadbasket.  Although “certain people” love snow, many are looking forward to the Spring when blooming flowers signal a new and welcome season.  Although Winter is essential for the life cycle of all living things, we perceive Spring as a time when life thrives again.

The idea of a thriving life anchors the IE Root bhel-2 meaning to bloom.  (Before we go further, be sure you have read two prior posts – one has to do with how these roots wind up with different consonant sounds, the other is a closely related root bhel-1 meaning to swell, not far off the idea of blooming.)  Like a ball swells when it is inflated, a flower swells when it blooms.  As in other cases, the b in bhel-2 can occasionally flip upside down making a p for a ph_l sound.  A blooming flower is one of the best indicators that a plant, and an environment, is thriving.  Floral and florist are clearly in the same word family.  Healthy foliage is also an indicator of thriving.    One of my favorite plants is the five-leafed Virginia Creeper vine, or as it is fantastically known technically – parthenocissus quinquefolia.  Quinquefolia = quinque (five) + folia (foliage / leaves).  (Although words sometime flip consonant positions, leaf is not related to folia.)  Think of that roll of aluminum foil in your kitchen.  It’s metal, but the foil is as thin and flexible as a leaf.  (In fact, “gold leaf” is foil that is very, very thin for applying as a decorative outer layer of an object.)  A folio is a sheet of paper folded once to make two leaves.  A portfolio is a folio that is portable.

In the
bhel-1 post we discover what the word phallus meant; now, bhel-2 gives us the sounds-familiar name Phyllis (altogether different meaning, foliage).
Interestingly, the words blood and bleed also seem to be related here.  Etymologists suppose that, at a cut, blood “blooms” out.  It could also be related to the idea that blood is associated with a thriving life.  Bless is related, originally meaning to mark with blood, to consecrate.  

Let’s wrap up with blade.  We don’t call grass foliage “blades” because they look like little knives, but because knives look like blades of grass foliage.  (Confused?  Just think about which came first - grass or knives.)  In fact, one particular blade of foliage is quite famous.  Those powerful, fierce gladiators carry a short sword with strong, sharp blades. In Latin, the sword is called a gladius… because it looks like a blade of foliage, most similarly resembling a gladiola plant.  Isn’t that cute; rough, tough gladiators are really just florists at heart.

The following is purely for my own amusement - as if the rest of this is not!  A thousand years ago, my college Latin professor, Dr. Anthony D'Amico, enjoyed telling the following story about a colleague - Dr. Foley.  Foley happened to be just a tad hefty and suffered name calling because of it - Roly-Poly Foley.  Like D'Amico, Foley was always studying one topic or another and preparing folios on various topics - Roly-Poly Foley Folios.  Once, he became fascinated with butter-substitutes and prepared a paper on the topic - Roly-Poly Foley Oleo Folio.  Alas, even in academia, opposing voices rise to be heard and Foley was challenged on some assertions made in paper (perhaps that margarine is non-fattening).  Foley countered with defensive argument and so the argument grew - Roly-Poly Foley Oleo Folio Embroglio.  Thus ended the tale, perhaps, I surmise because D'Amico couldn't append more rhyming words.  Or because he decided to move on to childish puns about entomologists. 

Friday, February 4, 2011

A World Map for Word Nerds

Interesting way to look at the world - by what the nation names mean.  (Click on the map to jump to it on the web and take a closer look.) Political map for comparison.
There is some dispute over how accurate the place names are.  One of the problems with this kind of effort is how far back to go in determining the meaning.  For example, "United States of Amerigo"... yes, the name derives from a prominent Italian explorer, Amerigo Vespucci.  But, let's note the meaning of Amerigo (in German: Emmerich) is a compound word: work + rich, powerful, ruler.  United States of Rich & Powerful Rulers by virtue of our Work.  Let's hear our American president brag about that on his next apology tour!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

We Gather Together

During a prior phase of my life I was considered gregarious – I loved a crowd and wanted to be in the middle of it.  These days, I’m virtually agoraphobic – I don’t like crowds and I’m most comfortable when I’m alone or with just a few people.  In fact, about the largest group of people I’m usually around is my church, SouthWoods, which is pastored by a great guy and my friend, Greg.

Oops, it appears I did it again (again).  Gregarious, agoraphobic, and even Greg all flow out of a IE Root ger-1 meaning “to gather”.  (I believe the gr in group comes from this root.)  One of the first words I learned in Latin was grex – a herd of sheep.  Gregory (sounds oddly like gregarious) means “watcher”… of the grex – a shepherd.

I just finished a funny little book on the first chili cook off in Terlingua, Texas (H. Allen Smith’s The Great Chili Confrontation).  Smith is a great writer, duh!, and uses some seldom-seen words.  One in particular caught my eye – panegyric.  I’ve seen it before, but want to make sure I understood it’s meaning clearly.  You would call the long speech introducing a political candidate a panegyric.  It is a eulogy (a good word) or praise of a person made publicly – in front of a group of people, a crowd, a herd of people.  So when I called Greg “a great guy” in a public internet post, that was a panegyric – and I meant it!