Blind Assassin, by Margaret Attwood
The original assassins were fanatical members of a breakaway Islamic sect in the eleventh century. They killed those who persecuted them and then killed themselves. They believed that they were going straight to paradise. Other people thought that they must be high on something. They therefore became known as the hashish guys, or hashashin. The hashashin played an important part in the crusades and the word was imported to Europe, but without any of the Hs, and thus we got the assassins.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s, by Truman Capote
When you wake up in the morning, the first meal you eat breaks the fast that you’ve been keeping all night. Fast, in the sense of fasting, is the same word that you use when you say that something that’s been fastened is tied fast. That’s because in Old English fast just meant under control. So when you break fast you lose control. Tiffany is an odd surname that comes from the Greek theophany, meaning a manifestation of God. So Breakfast at Tiffany’s could be said to mean ‘Lost Control at the Manifestation of God’.
War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy
‘The fog of war’ is an apt phrase because, so far as anyone can tell, the ancient Germans had no word for war at all. They just called it confusion or werso. War is therefore the opposite of peace and quiet.
A Circular Stroll Through the Hidden Connections of the English Language…
What is the actual connection between disgruntled and gruntled? What links church organs to organised crime, California to the Caliphate, or brackets to codpieces?
The Etymologicon is an occasionally ribald, frequently witty and unerringly erudite guided tour of the secret labyrinth that lurks beneath the English language, taking in monks and monkeys, film buffs and buffaloes, and explaining precisely what the Rolling Stones have to do with gardening.
Watch out for an exclusive The Etymologicon competition this Friday on Bookhugger!