February 18, 2011

Yay, it's word derivation time!

As usual, I've taken the following from "The Facts on File Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins" by Robert Hendrickson. Here are two derivation stories to brighten your day: 

Catchword.  Catchwords are expressions caught up and repeated for effect. Because catchwords are often used by political parties, the term has become a contemptuous one, applied to insincere, misleading statements. Catchword, however, has an honorable history. Books were once printed with the word that began the first line on the next page directly under the last line of the preceding page. Such words, designed to catch the reader's attention and make him turn to the next page, were called catchwords. Then the term began to be applied to the last word, or cue, in an actor's speech, and finally to any expression that catches the attention.

To give short shrift to someone. To treat someone curtly, swiftly, and unsympathetically. Short shrift was originally, in the 16th century, the few minutes given a condemned man to make his confession to a priest before he was executed, shrift meaning "a confession".

Isn't that last one evil? Short shrift will have added weight the next time I use the phrase.


Anna Guess Pick said...

Very interesting - perhaps this will become a weekly feature?

writenow said...

I think I will do it once a week. How many words would you like? I thought two would be a lovely appetizer, but perhaps three would better. I adore these things. And hi, Annie!

Anna Guess Pick said...

Hi Keith, no more than three I would say. Also if you ever want to add a topic, like odd words and their spelling I would love that...you know words for 'sounds' and feelings', made up things but words we use sometimes and I always have to fight with spell check.

writenow said...

Can you give an example?

Anna Guess Pick said...

Of course nothing comes to mind at the moment but next time I am stumped I will let you know. zwing!

writenow said...

One fun category in my mind involves redefining words, to make them mean something that goes well with their sound.

For instance, I think "gerundive" should be redefined to mean the way crabby old men act. "To be gerundive in one's old age". Kinda ornery and stupid.