Friday, March 30, 2007

From a tree stump to a mess of words

I often wish I had become an etymologist by trade. I probably could have had a fun-filled career. After all, one of those things I most enjoy doing is wondering where certain words and terms came from.

It's not just that I spend hours pondering what possessed the first woman to point to a bunch of leather straps and say "sandal" (come on, you know men wouldn't bother to come up with a separate name for each of the different types of footgear), but I do wonder how we got from a logge of a felled tree to a log entry in a ship's record to a thread of comments on a blog.

Many many generations back (many, many, many, many moons -- enough with the moons, already!), a ship's log was a stump on a knotted rope, tossed over the stern to see how fast she was sailing. How far back is that block of wood? Hmm, we're cruising at five whopping knots, this morning! If this keeps up, we should be in Capri by...

But then the log comes in and below decks, to the cap'n's quarters. How he persuaded the crew to carry that thing down the hatch is beyond me, but there it is on his table, alongside charts and that sextant and compass. And it's become a book, where he scribbles his record of the day's events, as well as the plans for this cruise, and whatever else he needs to keep track of.

Or did it become a log before the stump? Did the ship's log come from logos? It is, after all, the word of the captain.

Does our blogging owe its name to the Greeks, or to the Angles? And, then, how does said "blog" translate into a Latin verb (see comments by Archonix and Baron Bodissey)?

I'm stumped.

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