Words tell us something about where our ancestors have been. There appears to be no word for large body of water that has always been in the Indo-European language family, just like there is no basic word for silicon-based logic gate array–some day there will be (FYI, Oceanus, the god, was borrowed from the people our linguistic ancestors overran, just like we did more recently with the names Kokomo, IN; and Massachusetts.)
In the same vein, are people who study shit in depth, name stuff to exhaustion–each minute detail deserves a new name. In essence, scientific conferences are semantic arguments about what to call shit, and how them shits is related (id est, who had sex with whom, figuratively or literally).
Don’t believe me? Explain this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metaconid#Metaconid.
Naming is so important to humans (nouns are so important) that we give names to everything and anything new we recognize. Darwin’s journeys were about naming, and De rerum naturae by Lucretious was this in the fist century Anno Domini (another name) and Linnaeus’ Systema Naturae was a similar contribution with 1700 years’ worth of scientific advancement.
Our place names are this too. We often don’t mind taking names whose original meanings we do not understand, be it because they come from a different code system, from our own forgotten code system, or plain made up, examples below.
“Gorse” is the name of a bush. It is a spiny bush. You likely do not know the word. Gerste is the same word but in German garb, and it means barley–a particularly spiny grain.
“Cereal” to you Americans is a dry breakfast thingy, maybe a moist warm one too. But it comes from the name of a goddess, Ceres–the Roman goddess of the moon and grain growth. We also imported the verb from Latin, so that we also have “to create” which preserves the original meaning, more or less. Crescent is a sickle shape, but it means growing, as in Spanish “creciente.” Ceres is the name to the planet which lies between Mars and Jupiter. Look it up.
Other Old Skool imported words (no tariffs):http://www.eupedia.com/forum/threads/27106-Latin-amp-Greek-words-of-non-Indo-European-origin
“Scotch” means many things. It can mean a sticky plastic strip, a noxious (albeit delicious) drink, or a pugilistic skirt-wearing man (JK :] ). By coincidence only, Scotch ultimately is derived from some Latin word “Scotii” a term applied to the Celts of Ireland. Maybe the belligerent megalomaniacs the Latins heard the locals use a similar sounding word in reference to themselves (the locals), or whatever, and applied it. What would have JC (Julius Caesar) have thought of Irvine Welsh?
“Laquanda” -invented in the 20th century.
We use some words so much that they lose their original meaning, and pick up meaning tied to an ever smaller number of things. Some day, Morris will be associated with something awesome, kinda like Kiegels and Heimlich.
For those of you following along at home, ask yourselves how many place names in the US are 100% Anglo-Saxon as opposed to from some Amerindian language, or some Arabic language, or Spanish, French (basically Latin) or Ancient Greek. Few.
We even name things that already have names we know. In my life, Melzie knowz who she is and so do Bingy, Bertie, and That-fucking-retard. Some names get used so much that we shorten them. Once upon a time we bought compact discs, but soon most of us bought CDs. When I suffered from bulimia nervosa, I would watch Nicholas Cage movies, but now when I’ve eaten something rotten I just watch Nick Cage movies. As our cultures ebb and flow, we develop new names for social categories that are meaningful now from old words giving them new meaning. Chicken heads abound in Detroit, this S-bux is infested with Bros and MGBs. Police officer has too many syllables and so I just use “pig” or when I feel like being precise “Gestapo.” Few of us talk about fops (once dudes), or “yellow-papers” or “talkies.” Many of my friends would be confused if I asserted that roaches have six legs, and Tommy Chong did no care.
How many words do we have? According to some book I read back in my college days by Bill Bryson, the OED (Oxford English Dictionary) has 800K words. Do you know that many words? How did they count these? Polysemy is everywhere. Either these words are for those who know the topography of something better than they know their spouse’s genitals or they are old words you do not use anymore like “quean”, or the large number is due to the multiple meanings a word can have.
- head gasket
- head (formal syntax)
- head (part of my body)
- head of a company
- head of my family
- head, as in the bulbous red thing at the end of my fireman.
- head, a pot head “one who partakes of the cheeba, as much as Cheech Marin or more”
- to head, the verb
You can think of many more. And yet, unless trained you can’t. These words come from Latin “caput” meaning “head”:
Capitulate, decapitate, capture, cabo, cape, capital, capitol, cap, cattle–do you get it?
As humans, we describe the world in terms of us, and so God was made in our image, and things have heads and feet, in many, many languages. As time wears on, oft used words lose their connection from the greater ideas whence they came, and they get their own meanings. What does this mean? It means that we as a species, are travelling to new places, describing new territories, because we have extended our senses further. But we will be dammed, forever, or for a long while to see the world as people. In our world, things have hearts, things are warm and cold, things have intentions, things have color and sound and taste. Our science as much as our poetry are extensions of the systems that keep us alive, that gather stuff to stay more or less the same, i.e. alive. .