Expert: Etymological Discourse

Expert is a wonderful word to start with when trying yet again to get into the swing of blogging. It is also a very timely one, but about that later. First, etymology.

Like a perhaps surprisingly large number of words in the English language expert has come to us from Latin via French, and as such is one of the many imports which came with the Norman conquest of 1066. In Old French the word had much the same meaning as it has today  – “experienced, practised, skilled” – which shows unusually little change for a word which has been around for over 600 years. The original Latin root, however, was a little different. Expert originates from the Latin verb experiri, meaning “to try, to test”, which links well to the well-known fact that becoming an expert requires a significant amount of perseverance: trying over and over and over until one succeeds; trying out and testing different methods and techniques. It is often the case that such courses of word change have a certain logic to them which echoes the logic of common wisdom; I am of the belief that observing such changes can help reveal things about the thinking processes of different cultures, and perhaps even common thinking patterns within humanity as a whole.

As for why I found this prompt particularly relevant today relates directly to what I was doing before I decided to take a brief break: learning to touch type. Although there had been a touch typing club at my school, I never considered attending it as I did not have an inkling of how useful it could be. However, now that I will be going off to University in a month I decided that touch typing would be a useful skill as it would, for example, allow me to type notes while watching the lecturer and/or their presentation. It certainly requires a lot of attempts; hopefully a month will be enough to make me an expert typist.

 

Theta.

Advertisements

Stubbornness and Persistence: Etymological Discourse

Stubborn, interestingly, has the shortest etymology of all of the Daily Post’s prompt words that I’ve written about thus far: the earliest mention of it that is found is in Middle English, where it is in the form stiborn. There isn’t much more to say on the subject.

As for stubborness itself, it is a rather interesting concept. The word itself has negative connotations, whereas something like persistence is viewed far more positively. And like many other similar pairs of words, there is always a debate around where the positive persistence turns into the negative stubborness.

Perhaps the biggest difference between the two is the fact that to say that someone is “stubborn” about something is to imply that they are ignoring good reasons to change their behaviour; however that is a rather artificial division as what may seem as a good reason for one person is not necessarily the same case for another.

A more cynically disposed person may argue that it is not reality which defines whether a person is stubborn or persistent, but the view generally held of the person by others. Anything from a newspaper article to a textbook (although they often try to be objective) will use either term depending on whether they wish to portray a character in a positive or negative light. The two words are just another example of how the pen may be mightier than the sword.

But what of the etymology of “persistent”?

The adjective appeared in the 18th century, whereas the noun persistence was around a little longer, since the 16th. It originated from Middle French persistance, which in turn came from the Latin persistens.

Theta

Diligentia et cervicatas asinum et doctum definient.

 

Praise, price and pretty: Etymological Discourse

I must say the Daily Post’s prompts are very thought-provoking: first “craving“, now “praise“. And like before, I shall first and foremost consider its etymology.

Google is the source of my information today as they rather helpfully provided the following timeline: from Latin pretium (price) via Late Latin pretiare to Old French preisier (to prize or praise), and from there into Middle English praisePretium happened to be on my vocabulary list for Latin, and I was glad to see it come up again – it was like greeting an old friend.

Due to the influence of Latin on English via Old French brought over by the invasion of 1066, it was quite common to remember Latin vocabulary by associating it with English derivatives, such as mare (sea) and marinerPretium I remembered by associating it with pretty as, rather helpfully, to pay a pretty price is a relatively well-known idiom in English and helped me forge the mental link between pretium and price. Etymologically though, I now know that pretty and pretium have nothing to do with each other, as the former actually derives from the Old English prættig, meaning cunning, skilful, artful, which in turn comes from the Proto-Germanic *pratt- (another thing I have learned today is that Proto-Germanic has been, at least partially, reconstructed).

If all you were looking for is factual information, you may wish to stop here. What follows is far more subjective: a brief discourse on my own thoughts about praise.

Praise is certainly something all of us crave, and a lack of it can be dangerous to people’s mental health as it lowers one’s self esteem. I always endeavour to praise others and their work if I can – with the epidemic of mental ill-health raging through the first-world population, it’s the least I can do. Unfortunately, it is the case that many do not realise that problems often occur due to cumulative little things: a few too many harsh words or sleepless nights greatly increase one’s risk of mental issues. That is why the folk wisdom of “if you have nothing good to say, say nothing at all” is a very good principle to live by.

Personally, I find no praise greater than when it concerns something I have made myself; it brings me incredible happiness and leaves wonderful, warm memories.

Theta

Pretium et avaritia miseria mundi sunt.

Price and greed are the woe of the world.

Craving Knowledge and a bit of Etymology

Craving is the word prompt kindly provided by the Daily Post yesterday, so let us first consider its etymology.

The Oxford English Dictionary states that it is of Germanic origin, appearing as craifen (to ask, implore, demand by right) in Old English. A fairly bog-standard origin story, if not for the fact that it is also related to the Danish kræve and the Swedish kräva, through Old Germanic (I never knew that Old Germanic had any influence on that language group). Seems like I need to look a little more into those languages.

The above was what I had completed as a draft yesterday, but unfortunately didn’t have time to go back and add to as my day had been rather busy. Hopefully I shall be able to produce a little more today.

Theta

facienda multior res, minoris tempi.

The more things to be done, the less time.

 

Musing on Muses and Etymology

Muse was the first word I saw on my feed this morning, courtesy of The Daily Post. I think this daily prompt idea is wonderful, and to make it even better, this one happened to be a particularly interesting one for me.

My first association with the word were the Muses of Greek mythology (later adopted by Romans), which is unsurprising considering that I’ve studied Latin for the last 6 years and have a fairly good grounding in Classical mythology. Then the linguaphile in me piped up, pointing out that “muse” also has a second meaning: to ponder on something, or as the OED puts it –

1 Be absorbed in thought:he was musing on the problems he faced

     1.1 Say to oneself in a thoughtful manner:‘I think I’ve seen him somewhere before,’ mused Rachel

     1.2 (muse on) Gaze thoughtfully at:the sergeant stood, his eyes musing on the pretty police constable
(thank you Oxford English Dictionary!)
Deciding to combine both, I began to consider what I already knew about muses and musing.
Of musing I knew only the definition (seen above), but of muses I’d heard a bit more. Being associated with the arts, they were often invoked by those who practised them: poets and writers, artists, etc. Not only was this done in Classical times but also later, when the Renaissance brought the ancient Greek and Roman back into fashion, for example in the works of Pushkin. The frequency and widespread nature of such invocations lead to some interesting linguistic and literary phenomena: firstly, “muse” obtained a second, metaphorical meaning as a term for someone (or, more rarely, something) who inspired an artist or writer; secondly, it could be used in clever ways to subvert expectations and thus set the mood in pieces of text.
A wonderful example of this is in Book VI of Virgil’s Aeneid, where instead of appealing to the Muses to help him describe the Underworld, he instead calls on Chaos and Phlegethon:
Di, quibus imperium est animarum, umbraeque silentes,
et Chaos, et Phlegethon, loca nocte tacentia late,
sit mihi fas audita loqui; sit numine vestro
pandere res alta terra et caligine mersas!
(Quote taken from Perseus)
Which translates (roughly) to:
O gods, in whose domain are souls, silent shadows,
and Chaos, and Phlegethon, the broad places of the silent night,
may you permit me to tell what I have heard; may your divinity
reveal things buried in the fog and deep earth!
This helps make the point that the Underworld is a different, alien place where the muses have no power, and darker entities reign supreme.
A bit of surface research, however, revealed a few more things to add into my bank of knowledge. “Green muse”, for example, is metonymic to absinthe, although this use is rare. I was also surprised to find out that the noun “muse” and the verb have slightly different etymologies. It was never really a question I had considered, but as inspiration and thinking are vaguely related as to do with the human mind it never occurred that the origins of the words could be quite different. Whereas the noun “muse” can be traced through French back to Latin to Ancient Greek μονσα (mousa), the verb “to muse” goes back to Old French muser (to meditate, think about), and possibly Medieval Latin, but from there the trail is cold.
On the other hand, Wikipedia suggests that μονσα is originally derived from the Proto-Indo European (PIE) stem *men-, which means “think”, and which underwent an o-grade ablaut (i.e. the e changed to an o). Therefore the Old French muser which went on to become the English to muse may also have come from this PIE stem, making the verb and the noun vaguely related – great-great-great cousins, so to speak.
As for the mythological muses themselves, I finally found out why I was never sure about their number: different authors recorded different ones, as well as describing different and contradictory familial ties to other gods! Most common, however, are depictions of 9 muses, of whom there is a wonderful list on Wikipedia along with their domains and associated symbols. It was also interesting to find out that the Greek μονσα referred not just to the goddesses but also to the arts in general, and that the word “museum” is originally from the Greek μονσειοη (mouseion), a place where the muses were worshipped. It also, although obvious, had never occurred to me that the word “music” also comes from the muses, while the words “mind”, “mental”, “memory” and “mantra” all also come from the same PIE stem *men-.
All that is left to me now is to await the next prompt word tomorrow and see what new knowledge that brings me.
Theta
Musa, me ad humanitatem ducat!
O muse, may you lead me to culture/kindness!

Coming out of Hibernation

Ah, adversity.

We all have to overcome it at some point in every project we undertake. Mine came early with this blog: my laptop died back in January leaving my computer access rather limited. Needless to say, running a blog under such conditions was practically impossible., and I had to put it aside. Until now.

Without a laptop I suddenly discovered that there is a lot more time in a day than I previously thought, and all in all I think the break was more of a blessing than a curse. It also gave me time to think a bit more about my online projects (this blog and an Etsy-shop-to-be) and to realise that I hadn’t quite taken the right angle with them. Yes, they reflected parts of myself, but a few parts do not constitute a whole. There seemed to me to be some hollowness in the online persona, so the logical thing to do was to change it before it’s too late.

Being green is very important to me, that is true, and I am never happier than when out in nature, but they are not my defining features. Rather, it is a love of the unusual, the eccentric, the eclectic. In light of this, Growing Evergreen has become Theta’s Eclectique: still with keen concern for environment and sustainability, but angled more towards my other interests.

Hopefully I shall have more success this time.

For now, I can only show the beginning of my rebranding process: the cover and icon of my Etsy shop (blog rebrand to follow!):

Theta's Eclectique CoverTheta's Eclectique Icon (1)

I have decided to go for a more antiquated style, in line with my own fashion preferences ( https://www.pinterest.com/thetaseclectiqu/fashion-ideas/ is regularly updated with those), and am looking forward to where things will go from there.

Best of luck in all your projects!

Theta

P.S. Living without a laptop also gave me time to finally brush up on my Latin; so that I retain my skills and knowledge, I shall try to sign off with a new Latin phrase every time.

Si animus et pectus convenient, cunctus corpus contentus est.

(If the mind and the heart agree, the whole body is pleased)

Creativity and motivation

Inspired by the post at the Merriweather Council Blog (http://www.merriweathercouncilblog.com/), I decided to think a little about myself and what motivates me.

My mother taught me to embroider before I could write. Admittedly, it was on one of those children’s plastic cavases and it took me a year to complete due to lack of patience, but it illustrates my point. Crafting is second nature to me. So now when I think of a job I would enjoy doing, I think of one where I have enough freedom to be creative and work on projects that inspire me… But most employers demand highly qualified people for those jobs, so the way is shut for people like me, who suddenly find themselves adults and realise that employers ask for more than a good school record. So the best solution seems to be self-employment: opening my own handmade business.

I found that this process of ‘job selection’ can be reversed at times of low motivation. Feeling like the whole business thing is taking up a little more time than you’d like? Think about the alternatives. Most people of my age work in retail or in cafes, and both are my ideas of hell. I don’t mind dealing with customers, but doing it face-to-face several hours a week? No thanks. Running a business may require more hours and, at least initially, bring comparatively little revenue, but at the very least I get a feeling of accomplishment, rather than a general feeling of dislike for humans.

For me, there is a very strong link between creativity and motivation. If I can get motivated to start working, the cogs in the head start whirring and things start going smoothly. And when I say ‘get motivated’, I mean get so engrossed in or excited about a task that I don’t get distracted. Distractions often block the flow of thought. Meditation is the most efficient way I’ve found to achieve this when I need some help. I know I’m joining a huge chorus of voices when I start praising meditation, but for what it’s worth I’ll throw my penny in anyway:

  1. Meditation helps me to organise and prioritise thoughts and tasks. I have never been good at setting plans on paper: rather, there is a portion of my ‘mental space’ devoted to the calendar. When I need to remember an event, I imagine the calendar and fill in the date and timing; I also keep a small ‘to do’ list along with my calendar. It’s efficient up to a point, but I need to get better at writing all that on paper.
  2. Meditation helps me clear my mind and focus. It can help me remember why I’m doing something and to what end – that gets me excited and bam! motivation appears! It also prevents distractions, so I can get the job done nicely and efficiently.
  3. Meditation on the subject allows me to consider a problem from different angles. It’s like having a moodboard or a pinboard in your head, and the wonderful thing about it is that you can tailor how that thing looks and works perfectly to yourself. Just don’t forget to note down the end result.

Of course, if the creative going gets really tough, Pinterest is a good place to go to. I have a separate board for inspiration, www.pinterest.com/growevergreen/inspirational/ which I go to in times of trouble. If you have a look, you may notice that there is a strong nature and landscape thing going on – that is no accident, as I know for a fact that I find nature the most inspiring. Getting to know yourself like that is rather useful, too, as you have a ready-established source of inspiration to go to when you need to.

To bring this to an end, I’d just like to note one thing: if you realise you aren’t fulfilling a goal, that is no reason to give up. Case in point: I was planning to make this blog a daily one, and so far success has been rather varied. However, every day is a new start, and success is a working progress; I may have missed some days, but I won’t give up on the goal yet!

Resolving the New Year

I still remember the first time I found out about New Year’s resolutions from my school teacher: growing up in a Russian family, we simply didn’t have that sort of tradition, as the New Year was our equivalent Christmas (the latter not being celebrated at all). But over the years, our family culture shifted to adopt some British traditions, and I think now it’s time for me to make New Year resolutions for the first time.

Changes are most effective when they’re gradual, so I’ll start of small… Or at least, I’ll try to, as sometimes I can be a little overambitious.

  1. Write a blog entry every day – I’ve been doing well at that for the past couple of days, so I’ll try to keep it up
  2. Meditate more often (initially, at least once a week)
  3. Try to improve my time organisation with to do lists/weekly goals/etc

That last one is a pretty big one, as it ranges from finding more time for music practice to spending a little more time on my arts and crafts, from spending more time with my family to doing more sport… so hopefully it should give me an all-round benefit.

While thinking about my resolutions today, I came across the article “10 simple exercises that will strengthen your willpower” at http://www.willpowered.co/learn/strengthen-your-willpower?utm_source=Outbrain&utm_medium=CPC&utm_campaign=Strengthen%20Your%20Willpower which curiously had some similarities with my resolutions. It was quite reassuring for me to see that, as I consider myself as having fairly low willpower, especially when it comes to motivation. So if all goes to plan, I will not only improve in a weak area, but it will also raise my self-esteem, which is also useful!

Now, to set the year going right, here’s my to do list for today:

  1. Violin practice
  2. Meditation
  3. Revise Latin in order to do a timed essay tomorrow
  4. Do some exercise

I wish you all the best of luck in keeping your resolutions!