Word LoreOrigins ofVocabulary Wordsfrom the Threads ofInquiryThis is a document designed to explore certain words we use a lot in theThreads of Inquiry. Here we learn about how ancient and modern culturesuse the following words and from where the origin of the word has come.Since it is always a difficult decision whether or not to introduce newvocabulary words to students when they are trying to experience concepts without them, this page may offer a teacher an interestingapproach to presenting certain words to the class. A brief note: This document assumes students are from the United States, however, the information gathered here can be adapted for any country.Words we examine:Sun Shade & Shadow World Earth Light Dark Day Night Time Spring Fall Summer WinterAbout Our LanguageWhat language are we speaking? It is English. Why is it called that? It is the language which is spoken by English people who live in England. Even though we arenot English, our language is still called English because it is very similar to thelanaguage that English people speak in England.In fact, American English is slightly different from British English. Hundreds ofyears ago, the first English speaking people came to America from England. Sincethat time, the English language has been spoken both in America and in England,but it has changed just a little bit—and in different ways—in both countries. Nowthere is enough of a difference between the languages spoken in America andEngland that sometimes people call the English spoken in America American Englishand the English spoken in England British English.Over long periods of time, the language a people speaks changes very slowly. Usually, these changes take place so gradually that the people speaking the languageprobably won't notice the changes. But after hundreds of years, the changes becomeapparent—just has they have with British English and American English. Eventually a language can change so much that it can't really be called the same languageanymore. Perhaps one day American English will be so different from BritishEnglish that we won't call the language spoken in America “English” anymore.Everyday Classroom Tools: Word Lore185

Even before there was a special kind of English spoken in America, the English language in England had been slowly changing for a very long time indeed—over athousand years! If we had a time machine that would allow us to meet and talk withpeople who lived in England six hundred (600) years ago, we might have a lot oftrouble understanding them. Today we call their kind of English Middle English. Ifwe used our time machine and went back to talk to people who spoke English onethousand (1000) years ago years ago, their English would be so much different fromours that we could hardly understand them at all. We call their kind of English OldEnglish. Before that time, the language was so different that we don't even call itEnglish.Any language can change so much that it needs a new name. Sometimes a languagewill change differently in different places, and it will need two or more new names.It is possible to draw a picture like a family tree showing how languages change.About two thousand (2000) years ago there was a language we call Germanic (orProto-Germanic). It was spoken a little differently in different places, and slowlyturned into a number of different languages, including English. Just as English isdescended from Germanic, Germanic is descended from another language we callIndo-European (or Proto-Indo European). Indo-European was spoken perhaps sixthousand (6000) years ago. At the end of this document is a language family treeshowing how Germanic and English evolved from Indo-European.We can learn many different things by looking at how a language changes. Beloware a number of terms and vocabulary words taken from the Threads of Inquiry,each of which has a brief discussion about its history and the folklore associated withit. By introducing such concepts, we find that the subjects we investigate are allinterconnected.Brief Pronunciation NotesFor the purposes of comparing similar words in different languages, spelling is oftenenough. However, the students may have fun learning how to pronounce some ofthese words—doing so also gives additional insights on how languages change,since spelling does not always reflect pronunciation (especially in English!). Thereare samples of so many different languages on this page that it would be difficult toprovide information on how to pronounce them all (and, in fact, the authors havevery little idea about how to pronounce some of them!). However, it is possible tobriefly note a few important points without undue oversimplification.Unlike modern English, most languages (including Old and Middle English) havefew or no “silent letters”. Thus the Norwegian word time is not pronounced at alllike the English word “time”—the Norwegian word is pronounced something like“TEEM-eh”.The letter i is usually pronounced “ih”, although in the North Germanic languages íand i are often pronoucned “ee”. In general, e is pronounced “eh” in most of the sample languages, and a is pronounced generally closer to as in English “father” while ois pronounced generally closer to as in English “box”—though “long o” (ó or ô) ispronounced as in English “note”. On the other hand, “o umlaut” (ö) and “slashed o”(ø) are pronounced like the “ea” sound in English “earn”. The letter y is often pronounced with one's mouth in position to say “oo” (as in “boot”), but then trying tomake an “ee” sound without changing the position of one's lips (similar to German“ü”).186Everyday Classroom Tools: Word Lore

Some letters or letter combinations have special sounds. The “ch” sound as in Scottish “loch” or the name of the composer “Bach” is represented by the following lettercombinations: Old English/Gothic: hMiddle English: ghFrisian/German/Dutch/Afrikaans: chThus Old English “liht”, Middle English “light”, and High German “Licht” are allpronounced in very much the same way (“lihcht”).In Old English, sc was pronounced like modern English “sh”—Dutch and Germansch are pronounced the same way. In every Germanic language except English, j ispronounced like the consonant “y” in “yellow” “(except in Dutch ij, which soundslike “ee”). In High German, s is pronounced like English “z”, and w like English “v”,while High German ei sounds like the English word “eye”. Italian ce and Spanishche sound something like “chay”.Selected Words from the Threads of InquirySUN“Sun” is a very old word. This is because people have always needed a word to describethat big, fiery thing that appears to moveacross the sky.People who spoke Indo-European six thousand (6000) years ago might have used a couple of different words for “Sun”. Even then,language had changed enough in different places where Indo-European was spokenthat we can't find just one word for “Sun”! Some people might have said somethinglike suen, while other people said something like sáwel. Both these words start withsimilar sounds (su-/saw-), but have very different endings (-n or -l).Both these words for sun were still used in Germanic, about two thousand years ago.People who spoke Germanic might have said something like sunnón or suól. English(and other West Germanic languages) are descended from the language used byGermanic-speaking people who said sunnón. One thousand (1000) years ago, thepeople who spoke Old English said sunne. Other Germanic languages descendedfrom those used by Germanic speakers who said sunnón (mostly West Germaniclanguages) have words for “Sun” which look a lot like the English word “Sun”: West Frisian: sinneDutch: zonAfrikaans: sonEveryday Classroom Tools: Word Lore187

Low German: sunneHigh German: SonneGothic: sunnôLanguages descended from those used by Indo-European speakers who said sáwel(and from Germanic speakers who said suól (mostly North Germanic languages)have words for “Sun” which look like these: Gothic: sauilIcelandic: sólDanish: solNorwegian: solSwedish: solLatin: solSpanish: solPortugese: solItalian: soleFrench: soleilOccitan: solèlhToday we usually think of the sun as an “it”. Sometimes people might refer to thesun as if it were a person, and often they will speak of it as if it were male (as in,“The sun is shining, and his rays are very warm.”). However, English-speaking people thought of the Sun as “she” for a very long time—up until the 1500s, about fivehundred (500)years ago.SHADE and SHADOWLook at the words “shade” and“shadow”. What do you noticeabout them? One thing studentsmight notice is that they startwith the same letters: shad-.They might also notice theyhave similar meanings: castinga shadow makes shade. If theythink these words are related, they are right!A thousand (1000) years ago, people who spoke Old English said sceadu. This wordbasically meant “shade”. Six hundred (600) years ago the people who spoke MiddleEnglish used the word schade which eventually turned into our word “shade”.There were other forms of Old English sceadu, though, including the oblique caseform sceadwe.1 This eventually turned into our word “shadow”. Since both “shade”and “shadow” come from one word (Old English sceadu), their meanings are very,very similar. In fact, you can try making sentences using only one of the words, and188Everyday Classroom Tools: Word Lore

then try substituting in the other to see if the sentence still makes sense. Most of thetime it will make sense, although it might sometimes sound a little funny. Peopletend to use “shade” and “shadow” slightly differently even though they mean almostthe same thing. See if the students can figure out how they use both words.About two thousand (2000) years ago, people who spoke Germanic might have saidska woz or skadwaz to mean “shade” (or “shadow”).1 About six thousand (6000)years ago people who spoke Indo-European might have said skotwós or skotos. Thisturned into words with related meanings in different later languages; the Greekword for “darkness” is very similar: skotos. Here are words meaning “shade” or“shadow” in other Germanic languages—most only have one word for “shade” and“shadow”: West Frisian: skaedDutch: schaduwAfrikaans: skaduLow German: schaddeHigh German: SchattenGothic: shadusIrish: scáthBreton: scodCornish: scodWelsh: cy-sgodWORLDWhat in the world does the word “world” mean? Inthese Threads we mostly use it to refer to the planetEarth, which we live on. But sometimes we can usethe word world with slightly different meanings.We might use it to refer not only to the planetEarth, but to include the people who live on it, orthe plants and animals who live on it, or even inanimate things like lakes, rivers, and oceans. Theword “world” exists only in the Germanic languages. The reason for this is that is actually thecombination of two words. The first part of theword is wer-, from Germanic weraz or wiraz whichmeans “man”—this same element gives us the “were-” in “werewolf”, which means1.The oblique case will be described by most basic books on linguistics or grammar.Concepts like grammatical case might be a bit beyond many elementary school students, unless they are already learning a language that still uses cases like Latin or German. In short suffice it to say that in Old English, people used different forms of a worddepending on where they appeared in the sentence, and as time went on and the language became simpler these different forms sometimes became confused.1.The character † is pronounced like the “th” in words such as “this” or “bathe”. It wasoriginally invented by Anglo-Saxon scribes for writing Old English, but eventually fellout of use in English writing.Everyday Classroom Tools: Word Lore189

“man-wolf”. The second part of the word was from alda, which means “old” or“age”. So, when put together in Germanic, as it might have been used two thousand(2000) years ago, werald means “the age (or life) or man”. Eventually the word cameto mean “things that have to do with humanity” and the original meaning began tobecome less important. Later, it eventually came to refer to the planet Earth andeverything in it. People who spoke Old English one thousand (1000) years agomight have said weorold or worold. Here is how the old Germanic word weraldturned out in other Germanic languages: East Frisian: warldDutch: wereldAfrikaans: wêreldLow German: werldHigh German: WeltIcelandic: veröldSwedish: verldDanish: verdenNorwegian: verdenThere are many words in modern English that are made up of combinations of twoother words, just like “world” (weraz alda) and “werewolf” (were [man] wolf)are. Perhaps the students can think of some of these. Far in the future, maybe someof the compound words will have merged so fully (like “world”) that it will be difficult to see what two words the originally came from. Perhaps the students can makeguesses about how some of these words might one day look like. Maybe some ofthese words will also change somewhat in meaning (like “world” did). What mighttheir new, but related, meanings be?EARTHWhere on earth does the word “earth” comefrom? “Earth” is another word which isfound almost exclusively in the Germaniclanguages. Probably people speaking Germanic about two thousand (2000) years agosaid something like er†ó or er†â.1 This wordalready meant “earth” even then, and no onehas any certain ideas what the word might have been like earlier or what it meant.About one thousand (1000) years ago people speaking Old English might have saideor†e.1.The character † is pronounced like the “th” in words such as “Thursday” or “think”.It was originally borrowed from the Germanic runic characters by Anglo-Saxon scribesfor writing Old English, but eventually fell out of use in English writing. Though fewrealize it, the letter † survives as y in phrases like “Ye Old Toy Shop”. During theperiod when Middle English was written, the way in which people wrote † slowlychanged to look similar to the way in which they wrote y. Eventually, the distinctionwas forgotten!190Everyday Classroom Tools: Word Lore

The word “earth” can be used to mean a number of different things. It can simplymean “dirt”. This may have been one of the earliest meanings. What do we standon? If you are inside you are probably standing on a floor, but if you are standingoutside you are often standing on dirt. Perhaps, people came to think of the wholearea they were standing on as “dirt” or “earth”. By the time people were speaking OldEnglish, about one thousand (1000) years ago, eor e could already mean the worldon which people live. It took longer for “earth” to come to mean “Planet Earth”—until around 1400 CE, or so. Here is how the old Germanic word er ó turned out inother Germanic languages: Frisian: ierdeDutch: aardeAfrikaans: aardeHigh German: ErdeGothic: aír aIcelandic: jörSwedish: jordDanish: jordNorwegian: jordLIGHT“Light” is another word common to all the Germanic languages. About six thousandyears (6000) ago, people who spoke Indo-European all used words having to do withshining or being white-colored that began with the sound leuk-, although in different areas they may have used different endings for the word—already at that timethe word was changing! People speaking Germanic about two thousand (2000)years ago probably said something either like leuktom or leuksa which meant “light”.People speaking West Germanic used leuktom, and by about one thousand (1000)years ago, people speaking Old English had changed this word to léoht. This wordslowly changed to leht, then liht, and finally to Middle English “light”, which wasspelled the same way as our word “light”. Here is how leuktom turned out in otherWest Germanic languages: Frisian: ljochtDutch: lichtAfrikaans: ligLow German: lichtHigh German: LichtHere is how leuksa turned out in the North Germanic languages: Icelandic: ljósSwedish: ljusDanish: lysEveryday Classroom Tools: Word Lore191

Here is how the Indo-European basic sound leuk- turned out in other non-Germaniclanguages: Latin: luxSpanish: luzPortugese: luzItalian: luceOccitan: lutzDARK“Dark” is a strange and rare word for such a common concept. Everyone needs aword to describe the abscence of light, but there are a number of different words inthe Indo-European languages to describe this concept! Sometimes people make special words to describe concepts which are frightening or disturbing. Perhaps somestudents will admit to being afraid of the dark—such feelings may have been quitecommon long ago, before electric lighting allowed us to reduce the amount of darkso easily.1In any case, about five hundred (500) years ago people who spoke Middle Englishsaid derk, which was changed from the word deorc used by speakers of Old Englishabout one thousand (1000) years ago.No one knows exactly where the Old English word deorc came from. There is a similar word found only in Old High German (which was spoken in southern Germanyabout one thousand years ago) tarchanjan, meaning “to hide” or “to conceal”. Youcan see how the start of this word, tarch-, is similar to “dark”. Perhaps speakers ofOld English described the absence of light as that which hid things or concealedthem. It is possible that both tarchanjan and our word “dark” come from a WestGermanic word like darknjan which was used two thousand (2000) years ago.1.Sometimes something is considered so special—either frightening, or holy, or powerful, etc.—that people are uncomfortable talking directly about it. Often they will makea new word to describe it, and not use the old one anymore. In such cases, the old,uncomfortable word is known as a “taboo word”. Something is “taboo” if people areuncomfortable referring directly to it. Many words which we now consider commonbegan as replacements for taboo words describing special things. The word “bear”, forexample, is related to the Indo-European word for “brown”, rather than the originalIndo-European word for “bear” (rtko-, which survives in southern European words, likeLatin ursus). Bears were considered very special and powerful creatures and it isthought that in the northern European languages, people made a new word for thembecause the original word was too powerful to be used regularly.It is not sure whether “dark” is such a word, but it might be. It makes a good introduction to talking about what people consider powerful or frightening and how they dealwith it. Such concepts are often central to a culture's folklore.192Everyday Classroom Tools: Word Lore

DAYHow do we know when it is day? Whenthe Sun is visible in the sky. This explainsthe origin of our word day, which seemsto have come from an Indo-Europeanform dhegh- or dhegwh which had to dowith heat, burning, and times when it waswarm. For example, the Sanskrit worddah means “to burn” and Albanian djekmeans “burnt, while Lithuanian dagas means “hot season”.About two thousand years (2000) ago, people speaking Germanic said dagoz, meaning “day”. People speaking Old English about one thousand (1000) years ago saiddæg. There were many different forms of this word used by speakers of MiddleEnglish about six hundred (600) years ago, including dag, daw, daig, and dai. Eventually these were simplified into our word “day”. Here is how the Germanic worddagoz turned out in other Germanic languages: Frisian: deiDutch: dagAfrikaans: dagLow German: dagHigh German: TagGothic: dagsIcelandic: dagurSwedish: dagDanish: dagNorwegian: dagSome other Indo-European languages have a word for “day” which sounds similar toour English word “day”. Actually, these other words are unrelated to English “day”,and the similarity is merely a coincidence. Latin: diesSpanish: díaPortuese: diaNIGHTCompared with the word“dark”, the word “night” is a surprisingly common one. Wordsvery much like “night” appear inmany Indo-European languages.Six thousand years ago, peoplewho spoke Indo-European mayEveryday Classroom Tools: Word Lore193

have used a word like nokt. By the time people were speaking Old English one thousand years ago, this word had only changed a little, to neaht or niht. People speakingMiddle English about six hundred (600) years ago had changed the word to nyght,which is very similar to our word “night”. Here is how the Indo-European noktturned out in various Germanic and non-Germanic Indo-European languages: Frisian: nachtDutch: nachtAfrikaans: nachtHigh German: NachtGothic: nahtsIcelandic: nóttSwedish: nattDanish: natNorwegian: natt/nottLatin: noxSpanish: nochePortugese: noiteItalian: notteFrench: nuitOccitan: nu chRussian: noch’TIME (& TIDE)What is time? It's a thing which is so basic toour existance, that it is very hard to describewell! We all know time as the thing which aclock measures the passing of, but what it is,really? Perhaps the simplest way of describingtime is to call it the system of sequential relations between events. We might also call timea period of continued existence.Meanings like these have to do with dividing up a sequence of events into sections.Not surprisingly our word for “time” goes back to an ancient Indo-European formused about six thousand (6000) years ago: dai-. By the time people were speakingGermanic, about two thousand years ago, dai- was being used in two Germanicwords: tídiz (meaning “a division of time”, and tímon (meaning something like “anappropriate time [at which to do something]”).The tídiz word became Old English tíd and our word “tide”. In our modern Englishwe usually use “tide” to mean the way the ocean rises and falls over periods of time(as in “high tide” and “low tide”). See how this meaning is linked to the concept oftime? One thousand (1000) years ago, Old English had no one word for the ocean'stide—instead people referred to flód (flood or high tide) and ebba (ebb or low tide). Afew centuries later, during the time people in England were speaking Middle194Everyday Classroom Tools: Word Lore

English, northern Germany (where people then spoke Middle Low German) was animportant center for sailors, shipping, and nautical technology. There was a MiddleLow German word getîde which had acquired meanings which originally belongedto the ancient Germanic word tímon: “fixed time, proper time, opportunity”. MiddleLow German getîde also came to refer to times of the ocean's tides (which happenedat fixed times, and were opportunities to use their power to help move a ship). Thisnew meaning was borrowed for the regular Middle English word tide (meaning“time”) in the early 1300s, when tide in English could refer to the “time” at whichthe ocean's tides took place. Within the next hundred years, by the 1430s, theEnglish word tide had come to mean the tidal motions of the ocean themselves,rather than merely the times associated with these tidal motions. Middle Low German getîde led to modern Low German tîde and Dutch tij, both referring to theocean's tides.The word “tide” however, did not entirely lose all its old associations with time,even after receiving this new meaning. Even now, some old-fashioned expressionsuse “tide” to mean “time”, like “Yuletide” or “eventide”. “Tide” also survives in theslightly archaic word “tidings” (as in “glad tidings we bring”) which means “news”(in the sense of “timely information”). This modern English word “tiding” (MiddleEnglish tídung) seems to have been borrowed almost a thousand (1000) years agofrom the Old Norse word tí endi, which meant “events”. This word tí endi, comesoriginally from the ancient Germanic tídiz word. It is interesting to note that wordsrelated to “tiding” appear in other Germanic languages with similar meanings, suchas Swedish tidning and High German Zeitung, both meaning “newspaper”.Most other Germanic languages use a word thatchanged from tídiz to mean “time”: West Frisian: tiidDutch: tijdAfrikaans: tydLow German: tidHigh German: ZeitIcelandic: tí Swedish: tidDanish: tidNorwegian: tidBy the time people were speaking Old English, aboutone thousand (1000) years ago, the old Germanicword tímon had changed to tíma, which could mean“time” or “opportunity”. About six hundred (600)years ago, when people were speaking MiddleEnglish, this word had changed to tyme, which isvery similar to our spelling of “time”.The North Germanic languages do have a word that changed from tímon, as did ourword “time”. They, however, do not mean “time”, but have a meaning that is relatedto the concept of time:Everyday Classroom Tools: Word Lore195

Icelandic: tími (meaning “hour”, OR“appropriate time”, “lucky time” or “prosperity”)Swedish: timme (meaning “hour”)Danish: time (meaning “hour”)Norwegian: time (meaning “hour”)All the North Germanic languages have changed the meaning of their worddescended from Germanic tímon to “hour”—only in Icelandic preserves a alternatemeaning very similar to the original meaning of Germanic tímon.1 Why? Originally, the Scandinavians (who are the people who speak the North Germanic languages) had their own system of measuring time. They did not use hours, butinstead used three-hour divisions of time called eyktar or ættir. After the Scandinavians were converted to Christianity, the Roman system of time-keeping, as used bythe Christian Church, was introduced to their culture. The Roman system, whichused 24-hour days, is the basis of our modern system of time-keeping. The Scandinavians needed a new word for the concept of an “hour”, and instead of borrowingthe Latin word (as English did: Latin hora, through Old French oure) they alteredtheir word which meant “appropriate time” to mean “hour” (in the sense that when itis a certain hour, that is an appropriate time for a given event). The Roman/Churchmethod of time-keeping, however, was the high-class, learned method, and as isoften the case in such situations, the older native method of time-keeping persistedside-by-side with the Roman/Church method in rural areas of Scandinavia for centuries.On the other hand, English speakers expanded the meaning of their word tíma into ageneral word for time. It's older sense of “appropriate time” only survives in expressions like “It is time to go,” or “It is time for lunch” (meaning that it is the appropriate time to go or to have lunch). When people were speaking Middle English, aboutsix hundred (600) years ago, they sometimes used “time” to mean “hour” (as Swedish/Danish/Norwegian do) but “time” could also sometimes mean “year”.2SPRINGWhat do we call the season that follows Winter? It is Spring. Why dowe call this season “Spring”. Canthe word “spring” have other meanings? What other meanings can theword “spring” have? It can mean “tojump” or “to leap”. It can mean “aplace where water comes up out ofthe ground” (in other words, thewater jumps—or springs—out of the ground). It can mean “a bouncy piece of coiled1.Although Icelandic tími can be used to mean “hour”, the word stund or klukkustund isalso common. Klukka means “bell”, and is related to the English word “clock”.2.The use of the word “time” to mean “year” was the result of overly literal biblicaltranslations. It was, however, used in this fashion on occasion into the early 1800s196Everyday Classroom Tools: Word Lore

metal” (in other words, the because of its shape and elasticity, the metal can jump—or spring—back into shape after pressure has been applied to it).All these meanings have to do with jumping, or vigorous sudden activity of somekind. Can you guess what the season following Winter is named? It is Spring. Whatkind of things happen in Spring? What happens in nature? Plants begin growingquickly once the cold of winter has ended. One might say the new growing is practically springing up. And that is why we call this season Spring!“Spring” is an old word, and appears in many Germanic languages with a meaninglike “to jump” or “to run”. About two thousand (2000) years ago, the basic Germanicform was spreng- and by about one thousand (1000) years ago, when Old Englishwas spoken, the word had changed to spryng or spring and has not changed significantly since then! However, the word “spring” was only began to be used to namethe season following Winter in the 1500s (about five hundred (500) years ago). People had been using expressions like “spring of the leaf” and “spring time of the year”to describe the new growth of this season, and it seems likely that the season name“Spring” was formed from such expressions.So what did people call this season before they called it “Spring”? In fact, the common Old English word naming the season following winter was lencten, lengten orlenten. This word is related to our word “long”, perhaps coming from a Germanicform something like langiton used about two thousand (2000) years ago. Possibly,the word was used for the season following Winter because this was the time whenthe Sun's path was noticeably higher in the sky and the time of daylight lengthened—you can see how similar the modern English word “lengthen” is to the OldEnglish word lengten! This word survives in our Modern English “Lenten” or“Lent”. This word is now most commonly associated with the Christian Lent holidays which take place in late Winter or early Spring. Lenten originally was just theseason name, however, and only began acquiring its Christian associations after theAnglo-Saxons (which is the name we give to the Germanic inhabitants of Englandwho spoke Old English between about 600 and 1100 CE) were converted to Christianity. In fact, the earliest use of it in a Christian context is from around 1020 CE.English is the only Germanic language in which a word related to “Lenten” has aChristian religious association. It was used as a common name for the Spring seasonwhich followed Winter in several other West Germanic languages: Middle Dutchlentin and Old High German lengizin/lenzin. Middle Low German and ModernDutch lente are closely related forms also.However, the various modern Germanic languages use a wide va

Everyday Classroom Tools: Word Lore 185 Word Lore Origins of Vocabulary Words from the Threads of Inquiry This is a document designed to explore certain words we use a lot in the