Written by IainB
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Sunday, 4 December 2011

image for The meaning of words I sleep like turning off the light

Sometimes I wonder what words mean, or where they came from.

Like 'cling film'. It is called 'cling' film because it is clingy and a film, or was it invented by a man called Cling? Or a man called Film? Perhaps both. Perhaps Cling and Film got together and thought "Now there's a good idea" and created cling film.

Then there's the straw boater. It's a kind of hat. Very rarely made out of actual straw, and using it as a boat is ill advised and should only be attempted if absolutely necessary. Perhaps it is a kind of hat only used by people who boat in straw. If boats can be made of straw.

And I've been told that television is made up from Greek and Latin words, but as far as I am aware, neither the ancient Greeks nor the Romans had television, so why would they have had a word for it? And what would they have watched? I assume a lot of tragedy in Greece. Also, is that the reason that the BBC put the date of the program in Roman numerals?

Spectacles. The real name for glasses, and the word used in pubs to distinguish them from what you're drinking from. Are they called this because when wearing them, you look like a spectacle, or indeed, more than one of them? Or are they called spectacles because the enable the wearer to watch spectacles through them?

Carpet. Was this something originally developed for a car and a pet? Or for the fish: the carp?

There are plenty of other words that I wonder about, like why put a 'y' in rhythm? Was it done just to ensure a nice long word without a vowel?

Thoughts about these kinds of things might not keep me awake at night, but only because I sleep like a light-bulb.

The story above is a satire or parody. It is entirely fictitious.

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