Words (Again) (2)

Continuing with my list of intriguing words in English:

Dude: The word is a hippie slang greeting term between men, meaning “guy” or “man.” The term may have derived from the 18th-century word “doodle,” as in “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” referring to a man who is overdressed. Doodle, in turn, may stem from the German Dudeltopf or Dudeldop, meaning simpleton or noodle.

Helter-skelter: in undue haste, confusion, or disorder; in a haphazard manner. The term’s origin is open to question. It might be symbolic of running feet or from Middle English skelte, “to hasten.” Or it might stem from the word “kelter” or “kilter,” meaning working order or alignment. Another possibility is derivation from the reconstructed Anglo-French word eschelture, or “the state of being in military formation.”

Goner: a person or thing that is doomed or cannot be saved. The word derives from adding an r to “gone,” the past participle of “go.” It literally means something or someone who has left or departed. By extension, the word came to mean one who is dead. In passing, the origin of “go” is old English borrowed from German. It’s meaning hasn’t changed for centuries.

Lunatic: a crazy person. The word derives from the Latin luna, meaning moon. It is based on the belief that changes of the moon cause intermittent insanity.

Wrangle: to have a long and complicated dispute. In the U.S. (but not elsewhere), the word has also come to mean to round up, herd, or take charge of livestock. It derives from the late 14th century Low German word wrangeln, meaning to dispute or to wrestle.

Phlegm: a type of mucus made in your chest. But when you cough up phlegm, it’s called sputum. The origin of “phlegm” is complicated: Middle English fleem, fleume, from Old French fleume, from late Latin phlegma meaning clammy body moisture, which in turn derives from Greek phlegma “inflammation,” from phlegein “to burn.” The replacement of the f with the ph came in the 16th century because of people’s desire to restore the Latin and Greek spelling.

And, since we’re about it, sputum. It means a mixture of saliva and mucus coughed up from the respiratory tract. The word derives from New Latin, from the Latin word, “sputum” which means, simply, that which is spit out, spittle, from the verb spuere—to spit.

More soon.

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