Writing Prompt Thursday

The Penny, the Dollar, and the Pound

I’m having some book covers created by David Collins of DC Cover Creations, and I pay in British pounds. I started thinking about the names of various currencies, and what they mean.


The penny. Well, pennies are old, and I don’t mean just sort of old. The word has a Proto-Germanic origin and there are a few hypotheses as to the original meaning. One is “pledge,” and another is “cloth” (cloth was used to pay for things.)


The dollar. Whereas pennies are ancient, the word “dollar” is attested from around 1500. It entered English via Dutch, but is ultimately from German “Sankt Joachimsthaler,” which was a coin minted in St. Joachim’s Valley. (It’s now in the Czech Republic and called Jáchimov.)


The pound. The weight and currency meanings are related, which doesn’t surprise me. So much of something is worth so much, and having a fixed weight makes sense. What did take me somewhat aback was the origin of the verb. I had assumed it was related to weight, to strike with a heavy weight, but no. It’s from a word meaning to pulverize or break to pieces.


As for the book covers, I’m looking forward to sharing them with you soon.

Advertisements
Literary Analysis, Writing Prompt Thursday

Lousy

It’s interesting how the meaning of words changes over time, but even more so that we don’t often think about the words we use, and where they come from. A remarkably good (or bad) example of this is the word “lousy.”


The dictionary definition, or at least the first one, is “remarkably bad,” “poor quality,” “dirty,” and “mean.” We say things like, “His writing is lousy,” or “She’s a lousy photographer.”

Now, consider the second definition: “Infested with lice.” So why don’t we say “licey?” One louse is rarely encountered or talked about, and yet, over a thousand years ago, the adjective was derived from a singular noun.

The original meaning of something very dirty and infested with lice has changed to the fairly tame put down “lousy” is today. I doubt most people even think of lice when they hear or use it. I only noticed the connection when I was rereading the Little House on the Prairie books, and somebody uses it, along with “lazy,” to describe a teacher. Something in my brain clicked. Lousy. Louse. Lice. Makes perfect sense.


To conclude this post, I’d like to share two poems by Robert Burns:
To a Louse
and
To a Mouse
. While I certainly do not approve of his saying that the louse should leave the lady alone and go bother some poor people (what a lousy thing to say!), I do enjoy Burns’s language and poetic style. I also admire how he shows compassion for the mouse whose home he’s destroyed.

Writing Prompt Thursday

Sober

It’s almost Friday, so I’m thinking about the opposite of sober.


I had no idea where the word “sober” came from, so I looked it up; it’s pretty much Latin for not drunk (“without intoxication.”) Well great! I like to learn something I didn’t already know when I research words for these posts. Maybe I should do that digging for info while drunk.
The sober reality is that it isn’t the weekend yet, so to lighten the mood a little, I did read further, and managed to get confirmation of what I thought the word meant. Serious. Dull. Not passionate. In a word: boring. It gets even darker with words such as subdued, solemn, and grave. Moderate and realistic are all well and good, but it’s possible to have too much of a good thing.


I need to get away from this smothering sobriety, so tomorrow, I’m going to get intoxiacted, drunk, pissed, enibriated, I mean, enebreated, oh rats, it’s enibreated, oh darn it, I don’t know. Who actually says that, anyway?
“Inebriated,” the dictionary said. (Did I ask? Well, to tell the truth, yes, I did look it up so I could end the quarrel my brain was having with itself.)
Interesting: there are a zillion slang terms for drunk, but sober stands alone.