Thursday, August 16, 2018

Word Origins



The meaning of clue is anything which guides or directs. The word originates from the Germanic word “clew”, meaning a ball of thread or yarn. This is in turn comes from the Greek myth of the Minotaur, a creature with the head and tail of a bull and the body of a man, who lived at the centre of a maze constructed by Daedalus and Icarus (who disregarded his father, flew too close to the sun and melted the glue in the wings they had constructed for escape – the young bull and the old bull illustration!). The Minotaur is slain by Theseus, who was helped in navigating his way out of the maze by Ariadne who gave Theseus a ball of yarn. He unravelled the yarn as he worked his way into the maze and was therefore able to find his way out. The sense of clew meaning something which points the way is from the 1620s. Spelling was more fluid then and the change in spelling comes from the same period.’ So there you have it: it was Theseus in the maze with a sword. 



The meaning is a complicated irregular network of passages or paths in which it is difficult to find one's way; a maze. The maze that was constructed in Crete to hold the Minotaur was known as the Labyrinth. The word comes from a pre-Greek language where it is traditionally connected to the word labrys, meaning "double-edged axe," a symbol of royal power, which fits with the theory that the original labyrinth was the royal Minoan palace on Crete. It thus would mean "palace of the double-axe." Its use in English for "maze" dates from the early 15th century. And by the way, it’s a damn good David Bowie movie . . . 



Disaster comes from the Greek "dis" meaning bad, and "aster", meaning star. The ancient Greeks used to blame calamities on unfavourable planetary positions. 



Muscle comes from a Roman word meaning "little mouse". The Romans used the word “mus” to refer to rodents and would distinguish between mice and rats only by “big” and “little” - “Mus Maximus”, big mouse, and “Mus Minimus”, little mouse. Romans used to think muscles looked like little mice under their skin. 

The word “mouse” eventually was adopted to refer to a computer pointing device in the 1960s, with the first documented instance of this being in Bill English’s 1965 “Computer-Aided Display Control” publication. Two years previous to this publication, English had assisted Douglas Engelbart in creating a computer pointing device invented by Engelbart. Engelbart and English named this pointing device a “mouse” because the original device had the cord coming out of the back of the mouse, which they thought resembled a tail. In addition to naming the device a mouse, they also named the cursor a “bug”, but this latter name for a cursor never caught on like “mouse” did for the device itself. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.