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November 05, 2015  |  2 more words for a Friday  |  4369 hit(s)

Last week I had some fun with a new term and an unexpected etymology, so let's do that again.

The new (to me) term this week is north star, which seems to emerging as corporate-speak in at least some places. Raymond Chen notes that it's become fashionable at Microsoft in usages like this, from an email sent to all hands:
With Microsoft's mission as our north star—to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more [...]
Shakespeare was all over the notion of "the star to every wandering bark" in Sonnet 116:
              Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! It is an ever-fixèd mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
But Chen discovers that the notion of a north star occasionally slips from being a guide to actually being the destination, as in this example:
We have to decide where we want to go as a north star.
A bit strange. Chen apparently has needled speakers who use north star in a less precise way. I'm sure he makes many friends that way, not. :-)

The unexpected etmylogy today is for enthralled. The other day I was reading about Viking social structure—you know, the way you do—and discovered that the lowest of three social classes in Viking society consisted of Thralls, who were slaves. (The other classes were the Karls [free peasants] and Jarls [aristocracy].)

Thralls, hmm. Did this perhaps have anything to do with enthralled? A trip to the OED yields this:
en- prefix + thrall n.
The noun thrall may here be taken in either of its two senses, 'slave' and 'slavery.'
If you're enthralled by something, you are captive to it, to put it succinctly. Nice, eh?