Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Jonathan's fake word origins

I sometimes like to impress my students by telling them interesting stories about the origins of words. I like to think that a funny story will help learners to retain the word better. Well, I have a confession to make. Some of these etymological adventures are simply the product of my (or others') imagination. For example, it is a commonly believed in England that the word "butterfly" comes from reversing the first letter of "flutter" and "by". It would be lovely if it were true. It's not. Butterfly is a pure Germanic word. Not interesting at all. To see a "butterfly fluttering by" is a much more romantic and effective way of remembering the word. Another one that is completely of my own invention is the word "bee". I decided that because the English word "apron" came from French "naperon", the "n" becoming attached to article -"an apron", that the French word "abeille" could have easily become "a bee". Utterly false. I would like to take tbis opportunity to apologise to my students for all this misleading information. At least I have a vivid imagination! The one about "apron" is true, however.

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