Defibrillator: To Un-fibre

Defibrillator – a device for treating life-threatening heart problems. When passing a defibrillator this week I couldn’t help but wonder what it was to be ‘fibrillated’, it’s not a word we use, yet defibrillator runs off the tongue, and the devices have become ubiquitous in modern developed society. ‘Defibrillation’ was first coined in 1940 and…

Frantic and Frenetic – Swollen brain

Being frantic: ‘desperate or wild with excitement, passion, fear, pain, etc’ is nothing new, even the Greeks had it, what’s the etymology of frantic? The word comes from the Middle English (Around 1400 CE) word ‘frentik’, which is also the root of the word ‘frenetic’, meaning ‘fast and energetic in a rather wild and uncontrolled…

Castle – To share

Castle – A large fortified building. The word castle came to English with the French occupation following 1066, and was a variant of the French word ‘castel’ – which has become ‘chateau’ in French today. ‘Castel’ came from the Latin word ‘castellum’ meaning ‘fortified village’ – the Romans preferring to create villages as strongholds rather than…

Seminal work – Yes, that seminal

Phrase: Seminal work, I used to think this meant someone’s masterpiece, their signature piece, such as Pachelbel’s canon or Tolkein’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ but its proper meaning is a work which caused a movement, more like Darwin’s ‘Origin of the species’, where the book brought about a change in the way people think. The seminal…

Human – Earthling

Human: Being of human kind. ‘Human’, the word we use to describe ourselves, is a word which reached English from French, the French word being ‘humain’ – which, in turn, came from Latin, the word then being ‘humanus’. Even further back; the word has its roots in the Proto-Indo-European language, where the word was ‘ghomon’…

Time immemorial – Too long ago to be knowable

Phrase: Time immemorial: ancient beyond memory or record. This phrase came to English in around 1600 CE, it came from the French word ‘immémorial’ which reached English during the Anglo-French period (around 1214 CE) and stayed after the French had stopped governing – this was common with many legal terms. At the time ‘Time immemorial’…

Platitude – Flat Latitude

Platitude, a dull remark, especially if it’s said as if it were profound. If like me, you look at the word and wonder if it has anything to do with platypuses, then you’re in for a treat. The word ‘platitude’, joined English from French, the first known record of it as ‘platitude’ was in 1812…