Sunday, 28 November 2021

That's not what I meant (P)

Paraphernalia is not only one of my favourite words, it also ranks highly on my list of favourite etymologies.

Pamper today means 'to treat to excess', but in the sixteenth century was used to mean 'to cram with food'.

Pandemonium is from the Greek and translates as 'all devils', which doesn't seem to be linked to the current meaning of 'uproar, chaos' at all.

Pander is a verb meaning 'to accommodate for those less able', but originally referred to one who ran messages or arranged meetings between those involved in a secret love affair. I wonder if these panders also fed on bamboo?

Pane, as in pane of glass, is rather different from the original sense of 'piece of cloth or garment'.

Paraphernalia is an excellent word and describes the seemingly pointless items a person has amassed. In the seventeenth century it described those items which a wife would bring with her to the marriage but, unlike everything else the groom was given, these items were always the property of the wife and could never become her husband's or her family's.

Parks are nice places to relax, great areas of neatly mown lawns, flowers, even statues and perhaps water features. You wouldn't want to lounge around in a thirteenth century park, for it was an area designated for hunting.

Passengers today are carried on a vehicle, but this is only since the nineteenth century. Prior to that a passenger was simply one who was travelling, and most likely on foot.

Pasty, and who doesn't like a pasty? Well you wouldn't recognise a pasty prior to the nineteenth century, for this popular food item only contained one ingredient. Early pasties contained venison, later this was extended to fish, and only then did other meats find their way into pasties.

Pay is something we're hoping we don't have to do today, because it means parting with money. From its earliest use in the twelfth century, it was used to mean 'pacify' or even 'please'.

Penknife, today a small pocket knife, originally exactly what is says it was - a knife used to turn feathers into quills.

Peruse is to read today, but in the sixteenth century was used either to mean 'to use up' or 'to examine and revise'.

Petticoat is today an undergarment worn exclusively by females. French speakers will still see the original sense of 'little coat'.

Philander, is one who is seen as one of questionable morals today. Originating from the Greek, it came to English in its original sense of 'man lover'.

Pickets today are those who form a barrier to prevent strike breakers from entering their place of work. That is relevant, because the original sense, used from the seventeenth century, described a pointed stake.

Piety is a devotion to religious duty or belief today. But the word originated in English in the thirteenth century when it was used to mean 'pity'.

Pilgrim is another with religious connections today, but the original pilgrims were not necessarily on a religious trek, they were merely wanderers or travellers in general.

Piquant suggests a pleasant or tempting aroma or flavour. In the sixteenth century it could be used to mean 'piercing, cutting, severe, bitter' depending on the context.

Plaintive is used to mean 'mournful, melancholy' today, but began in English in the sense of 'complaining'.

Plasma is the colourless liquid part of the blood that carries the red and white corpuscles, but was once used to mean 'image, mould'.

Pluck as in 'courage' and also in to pluck feathers, was also used to refer to the removal of the internal organs of an animal - heart, lungs, liver, etc - which is why we speak of having 'the guts' when it comes to bravery.

Poison is something deadly today, but when it first came to English it was interchangeable with 'potion' and not used to refer to anything deadly.

Pole as in 'one from Poland', was used in the sixteenth century as the name of the country.

Police may refer to law and order today, but in the sixteenth century was used in the sense of 'policy'.

Polite is to be courteous in the present era, but from its earliest days in the sixteenth century was used to mean 'polish, burnished'.

Poll as in a voting sense, began in the seventeenth century meaning 'head'.

Pornography comes from the Greek and literally means 'writing on prostitutes' - and by this I mean writing about them, not inking their skin.

Portly is used today to mean 'stout', but up to the nineteenth century referred to one who was 'of dignified bearing'.

Preposterous or 'ridiculous' first came to English in the sixteenth century in the sense of 'putting the hindside in front' or more simply 'reverse'.

Prestige may refer to 'a higher standing' today, but in the seventeenth century was used to mean 'illusion, conjuring trick'.

Pretty is 'atteactive' today, but originally meant 'crafty, wily'.

Programme as in the sense 'a list of events' began in the seventeenth century meaning 'public notice'.

Promiscuous may have sexual links today, but originally simply described a group or number of people from mixed backgrounds, social standings, or cultures.

Proper, as in appropriate, came from the French propre and used to mean 'own' or 'belong to oneself' when it first came to English before the sixteenth century.

Pudding dates from the thirteenth century when, unlike the modern dessert, referred to something akin to the haggis.

Pug is today a breed of dog, but historically it has been many things. In the seventeenth century it was a demon or sprite; in the sixteenth century a bargeman; and in the sixteenth century was both a term of endearment and a term for a prostitute.

Punk, the youth movement of the latter 1970s and early 1980s, has had no less than six earlier meanings: in the early twentieth century it was a youngsterworking in the circus; in the late nineteenth century one who travelled with a tramp; in the late eighteenth century it was 'nonsense' or 'rubbish'; and in the sixteenth century a term for a prostitute.

Puny is a synonym of 'feeble' today, but in the original sixteenth century sense referred to one who was 'junior' to the speaker.

Purple is that colour which we all learned is a mix of blue and red. But in the fourteenth century referred to what we would call 'crimson'.

Pyjamas, for English speakers, refers to the two-piece night attire. But for the original Hindi word pajama it referred to the baggy silk or cotton trousers worn as a single garment. Indeed the Hindi pa 'leg' and jama 'garment' tells us exactly what it was named for.

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