Words and their origins

Language is a useful tool. It’s the primary way that humans communicate with one another, and is an essential element of relationships, business, education and so much more. So that leads me to wonder how our language came to be the way it is. Sometimes just looking at a word can give clues about its origin and original meaning.

My favorite example is the word “vinegar”. While this doesn’t say much initially, I realized that the French word for “vinegar” is “vinaigre”, a combination of “vin” and “aigre”, literally meaning “sour wine”. English borrowed the word directly from French, but in French, the original meaning of the word is preserved in its component parts. In English, when wine goes bad after being left out too long or stored in the wrong conditions, we say that it’s turned to vinegar. This means that the connection is still there in our minds, even though in English we do not have the linguistic path, as they do in French, which leads us from the one to the other.

This is just one example, but if you take a closer look at the words we use every day, you will discover many more of these hidden gems. Taking a closer look at language, our most important of tools, can prove to be a very rewarding experience.

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