Friday, 13 May 2016
Friday, which today is the 13th, and since it's words day, I suppose I should mention triskaidekaphobia. There, I mentioned it.
Today's new-to-me word is another one I picked up from Edward Bannat (@ArmaVirumque) on Twitter: semantic satiation. This refers to the phenomenon, which I'm sure you're familiar with, where you repeat a word out loud so many times that it stops making sense. Your brain, it gets tired, I guess. Not only is it inherently satisfying to know that there's a word for this thing, but learning the word allowed me to catch a reference in Dinosaur Comics that would otherwise have passed me by:
Pro tip: never pass up an opportunity to include Dinosaur Comics in anything you're writing.
Etymological musings this week are about the legume variously known as the chickpea, ceci bean, and garbanzo bean. Why so many names? Are they related?
First, chickpea. This was originally chich-pea, ultimately from cicer, the Latin word for this plant. This orgin is reflected in the botanical name Cicer arietinum and bonus! is where the Roman name Cicero comes from. (From Wikipedia: "[...] it is more likely that Cicero's ancestors prospered through the cultivation and sale of chickpeas. Romans often chose down-to-earth personal surnames: the famous family names of Fabius, Lentulus, and Piso come from the Latin names of beans, lentils, and peas.")
As another aside, the evolution of chich to chick here seems like it might be an example of folk etymology—the transformation of a word from word-parts that are obscure or foreign into more familiar ones.
You will not be surprised to hear that ceci [bean] comes from the same root, via a different route, namely Italian instead of French. (See what I did there? )
Garbanzo comes to us from Spanish and is not related to cicer. One theory in the OED is it comes from Basque garau "seed" + antzu "dry." That would be, I think, a pretty rare case of Basque showing up in English, yes?
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Friday words, language