31 January 2012


I don't usually post about what's on other people's sites, but today I have to make an exception. That's because in yesterday's xkcd comic, Etymology Man, I have found my new identity. Oh yeah.

Etymology rules. Here's one case where the internet has brought me the fulfilment of a long-harboured wish: an etymology dictionary. Back in the 80's, when I first conceived of that wish, they cost over $100, hardcopies being the only thing available; of course that was utterly out of reach for a perpetually-broke teenager. Now, thanks to the wonders of cyberspace, all I have to do is type in etymonline.com, and I have full access to all the obscure histories of all the obscure words my heart could possibly desire. Go ahead, try it: type "etymology" into the search box on the top of that screen, and see what you get. Ooh, for some reason the third thing on the list is "cockroach"- where does that come in? Ooh, rabbit trails...

And now I'm going to go make a pot full of marmalade (late 15c., from M.Fr. marmelade, from Port. marmelada "quince jelly, marmalade," from marmelo "quince," by dissimilation from L. melimelum "sweet apple," originally "fruit of an apple tree grafted onto quince," from Gk. melimelon, from meli "honey" (see Melissa) + melon "apple." Extended 17c. to "preserve made from citrus fruit."). And after that, go and read Marx (Marxist (n.) 1886, "devotee of the teachings of Marx," from Fr. marxiste, from Karl Marx (1818-1883), Ger. political theorist. The adj. is attested from 1897. The adj. Marxian (1940) sometimes is used (e.g. by Groucho) to distinguish the U.S. comedic team from the Ger. political philosopher).

Life, the Universe, and Etymology. I gotta get me a cape.


  1. LOVE the cartoon. I'm fascinated by etymology - always have been!

  2. And, oh my goodness, there's a sequel today! http://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/wrong_superhero.png