Though these days the term wordmonger refers to "a writer or speaker who uses language pretentiously or carelessly," please join me in proposing a new meaning. A fishmonger appreciates and promotes fish, therefore, a wordmonger does the same for words.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Facewear #1


Facewear #1

Last week’s post took a look at the etymologies of headwear, so this week we’ll move south a tiny bit to take a look at three things worn on the face.

Lately, the veil has received a lot of attention. The noun veil came into English in the late 1300s from the Anglo-French word veil, which meant both head-covering & sail. This came from the Latin velum, sail, curtain or covering (which, intriguingly is not related to the English word vellum).

Both mask & mascara have their roots in the Middle French word masque, a covering to hide or guard the face. This came from a Middle Latin word, masca, meaning specter or nightmare. Nobody’s certain where the Middle Latin came from, but it may have its roots in the Arabic word maskhara, buffoon or mockery, or possibly from Catalan, maskarar to blacken the face. It may even have come from the Old Occitan word masco, which means both witch & dark cloud before the rain comes.

Grin showed up in Old English as grennian, to show the teeth in pain or anger. Many Germanic languages had/have related roots: Dutch, grienan, to whine; Old Norse, grenja, to howl; German, greinen, to cry. It wasn’t until the late 1500s that the word grin began to be the sort of thing one might want to see on a friend.


Dear followers, please contribute to next week’s post by using the comments section to suggest other items, treatments or expressions that might be worn on a face.


My thanks go out to this week’s sources, Etymoniline.com, The OED,

4 comments:

  1. I must say I've known some people who wear enough mascara that it looks like a mask :-) It sounds as if "grin" used to mean what we now mean when we say "grimace." I love how I always learn something here. I'd never even heard of Old Occitan.

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  2. PER CHARLEY'S REQUEST, HOW ABOUT NOSE-RING, SPINACH-SMILE, OR BOOGER? WOULD ZIT FIT? PERHAPS "FROWN" FOR SAFETY-SAKE.

    I LOVE THAT "DARK CLOUD BEFORE THE RAIN" THING. I HAD A JUNIOR HIGH TEACHER WHO'D HAVE WORN THAT NAME WELL.

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  3. Ahoy Anne & Steve,
    Nice to see you both here again. I'll put your suggestions, Mr. Figler, in my heap of possiblities for next week, & Anne, I'd never heard of Old Occitan either. It's apparently one of the Provencal dialects of what we now call France -- in the region of Langedoc. Lfe is funny.

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  4. Interesting. I always like to know the origin of words and once took a class in the History of English. Thanks for sharing. I look forward to reading more. Beryl Reichenberg

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