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.

Thursday, March 28, 2013



On my little part of the globe, spring has arrived. I can almost hear my mom saying, “Spring has sprung, the grass has ris. I Wonder where the flowers is.”

Our English word spring is somewhat unique when it comes to labeling the season between winter and summer. Two French terms and one Latin one referring to that same
printemps, primevère, & tempus primum, mean first time, or first season. The Danish word voraar and the Dutch word vorjar both mean fore-year. The German word Frühling, and Middle High German word vrueje both mean early. The Haitian Creole folks put a different spin on their equivalent, with sous, meaning source. All of these, however, have to do with firstness, earliness, beginnings.

The English word spring, which became popular in the 1540s, once springing time went out of vogue and long after the Old English springan had faded away, focuses on something entirely different. The season spring sprung forth from the verb spring, meaning to leap, burst forth or fly up. It came from Proto-Indo-European, sprengh, which meant rapid movement. Its Sanskrit & Greek equivalents, sprhayati  & sperkhesthai meant desires eagerly, & to hurry.

What do you suppose was up with those Englishfolk, breaking with linguistic tradition & associating the first, the early, the beginning season with active, radical concepts like leaping, bursting forth & flying up?

Then again, look at English spelling rules.

In this week’s comments section, I hope you’ll note some plans for your spring, or some thoughts about spring, or maybe even an English-inspired wacky way to spell spring…

My thanks go out to this week’s sources the OED, Wordnik,, Etymonline,


  1. To honor the season for greasin', I offer the following from the late, great Walt Kelly, the papa of Pogo in case ya don't know:

    "Spring hath sprung the cyclotron,
    How now doth thou brown cow."

  2. I love that our word for the season of growth is so lively. Spring evokes action. So true. We have our vege garden planted and are anxiously awaiting the springing forth of our little plants. To S.K.; thanks for the Pogo quote. Love those Pogo quotes!

  3. Spring seems a much more apropos word to me. When you think about it, clocks SPRING forward (how wise of those Olde Englishe types to anticipate our seesaw-ing timepieces); we SPRING from bed each morning, eager for the first taste of our daily caffeine allotment; my cat SPRINGS onto my stomach at first light, to make sure I don't miss one infinitesimal ray; plants, in the form of weeds, SPRING from the earth and leaves SPRING forth from tree branches to hide the birds that drop love letters on our cars.

    So much more exciting to SPRING about than to calmly await a first early beginning.

    And my mom had a different take on your mom's little saying, Charlie (I'll try to do it with the appropriate Brooklyn accent):

    Spring iz sprung, da grass is riz
    I wonder where da boidies iz,

    Da boids? Dey is on the wing.
    Dat's absoid. Da wings iz on da boids.

    Happy SPRING, everyone!

  4. Hey Steve, Christine & Susan,
    Thanks for popping by - I'm pleased that others appreciate the choice of an unlikely, but applicable word for the season.

  5. Thanks much for the leaping enlightenment. And the edifying verses from Steve and Susan.

    I understood the Englsh concept of spring and all our Easter traditions when I spent a couple of springs in northern England. The change that happens just around Eastertide (named for the pre-Celtic British goddess Oestre, whose significant other is a very large hare.) is shockingly quick. I guess because of those April showers (which actually they have in all the other 11 months, too, but in April, moreso.) Then the place explodes in flowers. More colors than you can imagine. Carpets of bluebells, hillsides of daffodils. Suddenly every English nursery rhyme and poem made sense to me.

  6. Hi Anne,
    I had the same problem growing up as a Californian whose elementary school teachers had all migrated from the midwest or eastern seaboard. After spending most ther winter months running around in my shorts & a t-shirt, I simply didn't get all the hoo-hah about spring & how won-derful it was that all the flowers were blooming and finally that long dismal winter was over. Ah, the wonders of geographical differences.