|Saturday, February 3, 2001||
humble house is often called palace or mansion, depending upon the
level of ostentatiousness. Surprisingly, the origin of both palace and
mansion suggests nothing of the sort. Nero, the Roman emperor, is
credited with building the first palace. The Palatine hill was at
first the main part of ancient Rome, but later, as Rome grew, it
became a status symbol to live there. The whole slope came to be
studded with houses of wealthy people of Rome. This was so until King
Nero wanted to keep the hill for his sole use. To keep him happy, all
other houses were destroyed and their residents were given houses
elsewhere. Nero’s architects designed an elaborate house for him.
This home was called Palatium, meaning on the site of Palatine. The
word served a simple purpose, that of geographic identification, and
had nothing to do with majesty or riches. Later, the French kings
called their homes palais. The word came to English as paleys,
and became palace later. Mansion comes from the Latin manere or
to dwell, and this gave English the word manor as well. The Latin mansionis
too came from the same root, giving the word mansion. Similarly,
residence comes through French from the Latin resideo or
sit-back, meaning a place where you sit back and take it easy.
The bureau was not a wooden cupboard when the word took birth. Bureau comes from the Old French burel, a coarse woollen cloth that was used to cover writing desks. Soon burel changed to bureau, the name of the cloth was transferred to the object it covered and the French writing desk became an English chest of drawers for the bedroom. In earlier times, a bed would carry a canopy as a mark of splendour. Canopy comes from the Greek konopos, meaning gnat or mosquito. In order to avoid insects at night, the Greeks slept on a konopeion, a bed enclosed within netting. The word applied to the protective curtains as well and came to English through Latin. Canopy is today used for any covering. The canapés served as an accompaniment with cocktails are from the same source, but by way of French. The topping on a canapé is like a cover.
The humble sofa-back was earlier called antimacassar. Antimacassar had a very practical origin. This decorative covering on the backs of chairs was used to protect them against (anti) the macassar oil which people normally used for the hair. Since the oil came from Mangksara island, it was commercially called macassar oil.Tap-root
Growth in the vocabulary of a language takes place in many ways. The prevalence of a set of two terms for one concept is one of these ways. In Hindi, a different set of words are used for religious activities, adding to the number of words in the lexicon. A religious book, for instance, is called a granth and not a kitaab, paani is jal, khana is bhog, phera is parikrama and aag jali becomes agni prachand hui.