Showing posts with label medievalisms. Show all posts
Showing posts with label medievalisms. Show all posts

Thursday, April 11, 2013

To Earwig or Eavesdrop

Adventures in Logophilia, Day 200:


To earwig is to annoy or attempt to influence by way of private discussion.  In Britain, this is another word for "eavesdrop."  This comes from an insect of the same name, a long-bodied little creature with pinchers.  In the Anglo-Saxon days (which shows just how old the word is), earwigs were thought to crawl into the human ear.  I know what you're thinking: eww and oww!  I'd imagine that this would be a medieval explanation for madness or demon possession... or perhaps medieval term for, well, bugged or wired. As if the creature is a piece of demonic espionage equipment.  Purely a conjecture straight out of my wacky imagination.  I prefer not to think of the ear-bugs (who would?) but the little insistent whispers that give away an earwigging discussion.

Eavesdropping fascinates me, too.  Not only does this verb mean "listening in on someone else's conversation", but it had its origins in the 1600s... a person who supposedly stood under the eaves of someone's house to listen to the conversations within.  The eavesdrop, according to Oxford Dictionaries, was actually the ground directly below the eaves, where the water runs off. 

Which word is your favorite: earwig or eavesdrop?

Eavesdrop by Marsha Aninditha

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Adventures in Logophilia Day 39: fey (jillian)

Continuing with our Halloween theme, today's creepy word is...

Fey (an adjective) simply means "fated to die", and something that is fey is foreboding of death or major calamity.  It can also mean crazy - something marked by a strange, otherworldly air.   Other uses of the word are "excessively refined", "dainty or precious" or "quaintly unconventional."  Fey, as a harbinger of death, was probably the earliest use - pointing to fairies who were the scapegoats for sudden, unexplainable death and everyday inconveniences (oh, no!  The milk went sour!) in early centuries.  In my first lesson on the Middle Ages - Catherine Called Birdy - a character dies in her sleep and she is considered "elf shot" because there isn't a mark of trauma on the body.  Elf shot.  Stroke.  Same thing, right?  I don't think we will ever stop being shaken to the core by death, no matter what the explanation.


to a blog by three people who write, for anyone else who wants to write. It's a cruel world for creators, and here we promise support, whimsy, and curiosity that will hopefully keep your pen moving and keyboard tapping!

To read more about why Daedalus Notes exists, click