JUST as some people have interesting life stories, words too can tell lively tales. Here are some words with colourful biographies.
A prude is a person who is or claims to be easily shocked by matters relating to sex and nudity. Prude comes from French where it originally meant wise woman; prude femme or prode femme. Prod, prudent comes from the Latin prodis with the same sense, derived from the verb prodesse, to be good. English alone is not responsible for giving the word derogatory overtones; the process had already started in French when a woman who was too wise became an irritant. From woman alone to all humans is but a short semantic jump.
The verb debunk means to
expose or ridicule the falseness or hollowness of a myth, idea or
belief. It is made up of the prefix de, meaning to remove, and the
word bunk. Bunk was born during the Sixteenth United States Congress.
Felix Walker, a representative from Western North Carolina, whose
district included Buncombe County, continued on with a dull speech in
the face of protests by his colleagues. Walker replied he had felt
obligated "to make a speech for Buncombe." The language
users could not ignore such a masterful symbol for empty talk; so
Buncombe, spelled Bunkum, was born in 1828. Later, it was shortened to
bunk and it became synonymous with claptrap. In 1923 was created the
word debunk that led onto the nouns debunker and debunkery.
The history of cabal is the intriguing tale of how a word can be transferred from one sphere of activity to another while retaining only a faint link with its past. Originally, cabal came from Hebrew, reaching English via Latin and French. In the seventeenth century, English adopted the word cabala that later became cabal. This came from kabbalah, cabala or qabalah. These were the various names for the Hebrew oral interpretation of the Bible, transmitted by Moses. It was also the name given to the Jewish religious philosophy based on an esoteric interpretation of the Hebrew Scriptures. French developed the idea of cabal being esoteric further during the seventeenth century; a time of plots and counterplots by royalists and parliamentarians. The five most influential ministers of Charles II were Clifford, Arlington, Buckingham, Ashley and Lauderdale, giving cabal a false etymology.
The Hindi sachiv is
used today in all places where the English secretary would be used;
secretary… of an organisation, to a busy person or a senior official
in a government department. These are senses created by convenience.
Originally, in Sanskrit, sachiv was used in the sense of a saathi
or sakha, i.e. confidant. Today’s meaning developed after
the confidential advisor to the king came to be called sachiv.