Saturday, 20 August 2016
Friday words! Only today they happen to be on a Saturday. That's how it goes sometimes.
For this week's new-to-me word, I have wind throb, which I learned just a few days ago from an article (paywall) in the Wall Street Journal. This refers to the "wub-wub-wub" noise that happens when you open only one window while driving fast in a car. The more technical name for this phenomenon is Helmholtz resonance, but good luck getting far with that term at your next dinner party.
Fun fact: per the article (and a slew of others that appeared this week), wind throb is more of a problem with latter-day cars because they are designed to be aerodynamically tight. Certainly I've noticed that it's more of a problem with my 2015 Maserati than with my 1973 Dodge Dart. (Yeah, right.)
For surprising etymology this week I have two! The first is the word geyser, referring to a hot spring that sends up a plume of water. Give a moment of thought to the word, and you'll observe, I believe, that its meaning doesn't seem to be obvious, nor does it have cognates. That's because geyser has an unusual source (haha): it comes to English from modern(-ish) Icelandic (!), not exactly a historically rich source for English vocabulary. Geysir is the name of a particular geyser in Iceland; the name derives from an Icelandic word meaning "to gush." Our general term in English comes from the name of this specific geyser in Iceland. John Kelly has a great writeup of all this on Mashed Radish, a site well worth exploring for more fun with everyday etymology.
The other surprising etymology this week is for the word cemetery. On Twitter I follow Haggard Hawks Words, where they post unusual and obscure words. They recently created a words quiz, from which I learned that cemetery comes from the Greek word koimetarion, which means "a sleeping place." R.I.P. indeed.
Here are a couple of bonus etymologies this week, both inspired by political goings-on:
Like this? Read all the Friday words.
- Katherine Barber discussed the word nostalgia.
- Nancy Friedman addressed a term much in the news recently: sarcasm.
Friday words, language