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Everyday Etymology: Our Favourite Words

Our new series ‘everyday etymology’ explores the meaning and history behind words. Discover our favourites below.

Words make our world turn. They have the power to create and destroy in seconds. Our use of language is what differentiates us from animals and forms the core of our individual identities and sense of purpose. As Hamza Yusuf once said: “Don’t ever diminish the power of words. Words move hearts and hearts move limbs.” That’s why we’re starting our new series, ‘everyday etymology’. 

Every word has an origin; a direct impact of our shared experience. With that in mind, we asked our team about their favourite words (a difficult task I know, especially as we’re all content creators). 

 

‘Ostracise’

Our CEO, Jeremy Rodgers, found it difficult to choose just one word as his favourite, though he eventually settled on ‘ostracise’ because of its origins in the history of democracy: 

“The word goes hand in hand with democracy and originates from the cradle of modern politics, Ancient Greece, where citizens could vote to ‘banish’ dangerous individuals who were becoming too powerful and posing a threat to democracy (quite poignant at the moment given what’s happening in the world).”

The origin of the word traces back to the Greek word oskrakon, which Jeremy explains is “a shard of broken pottery on which those privileged to cast a vote wrote their choice on. If the vote was in favour, the individual in question was ‘ostracised’. The word has nothing to do with ostriches!”

 

‘Gobbledygook’

As a Junior Copywriter and history buff, Rebecca Gibbs has a keen interest in the origin of words. She decided on the word ‘gobbledygook’ because on the surface it sounds hilarious, but dig a little deeper and it’s actually used in protest to officialdom and authority. 

First used by US Representative Maury Maverick in 1944, banning the use of “overinvolved, pompous talk of officialdom”, gobbledygook was used as an imitation of a turkey noise. Now, as a copywriter, the word is more relevant to Rebecca than ever, “part of the job is to make technical writing accessible to everyone, which often involves cutting out complex terminology, or gobbledygook!”

 

 

‘Petrichor’

Linguakey’s Project Manager, Annabel Lee, settled on a word that reminds them of camping surrounded by nature. 

“My new favourite word is ‘petrichor’, the smell of rain. The word is made from the Greek words ‘petra’, meaning stone, and ‘ichor,’ meaning ‘an ethereal fluid taking the place of blood in the veins of the ancient Greek gods’. The smell reminds me of waking up when you’re camping after a damp night and everything is covered in tiny individual water drops. The way it makes life seem that bit slower and calmer truly is something godly.”

 

‘Obstreperous’ 

Trainee Copywriter Dan Farthing decided on a word that brought back nostalgic memories of school life: “Noisy, boisterous, unruly, difficult to control. I love this word because it’s phonetically playful with the plosive sounds that reflect the meaning of the word itself. I’m sure I first heard this word in a classroom, so there’s a nostalgic element to it.”

“For me, it tells a story of the teacher-pupil relationship and the way that the youth resist authority. It’s quite pompous because it’s multisyllabic and that adds a comic dimension when you’re using it to refer to a noisy or difficult individual. There’s almost an inherent conflict between the speaker (who is clearly very patronising!) and the subject, which I find really funny. Take the first recorded instance of the word appearing in text for example: “proceed’st thou still with thy obstreperous noyse?” 

“I think it’s important that everyone keeps a little bit of youthful resistance with them as they grow older and mature, otherwise the world would be a very boring place! Proceed’st with thy obstereperous noyse!”

 

‘Story’

Our Junior Copywriter and social media whizz, Lauren McDonald, highlights the importance of the word ‘story’. She explains: “Stories are fundamental to life. We learn more about ourselves and others through the stories we share and hear. Our personal experiences threaded into stories allow us to open up to one another, to share the good and the bad in the hope that it can help the people we are telling in one way or another.”

 “I’ve always been eager to write stories, but most importantly, to listen to stories. Every person on this planet has their own story and I think it’s beautiful how different we all are and how no two stories are exactly the same.”

“Storytelling is so important, it’s how we learn from past mistakes. It’s how we learn new things, and sometimes it’s how we communicate the things we sometimes struggle to feel or say out loud. The definition of a story is an account of imaginary or real people and events told for entertainment. But, it is so much more than that. We are all storytellers in one way or another; some of us write non-fiction to teach the masses, and others share experiences threaded into fiction to help people escape the real world. What is life without a story but a random series of events?”

 

‘Luminous’

Alex Welton, our Senior Copywriter, finally settled on ‘luminous’ — because of its meaning, origin and prominence in pop culture.

He said: “Google describes ‘luminous’ as ‘giving off light; bright or shining’. However, it also has deep roots in spirituality. As an elderly green as-yet-to-be-identified-specimen once said, ‘luminous beings are we’, referring to the good inside us that transcends our physicality. Of course, wizards, too, can benefit from the Latin-esque shortening to ‘lumos’. Wands ready. Honestly, where do these writers get their ideas from?”

 

At Linguakey, we’re the masters of words

Words are a powerful marketing tool. At Linguakey, we create compelling content that will educate and engage your clients. We’re masters of words. Find out about our services here and unlock your marketing potential.

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