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, July 6, 2017

Bald

Bald

A particular physical characteristic of mine inspired this post.

The word bald has been with us since the 1300s, meaning wanting hair in some place where it naturally grows. Though we’re not really sure where the word bald came from, there are some likely sources. The Proto-Indo-European word *bhel- meant to shine, flash, or gleam, the Celtic word bal meant white patch or blaze, & the Sanskrit word bhalam meant brightness or forehead.

Appearing in the 1580s, meaning of black & white coloring, piebald appears to have come from combining pie, a shortening of magpie, (a black & white birdwith the older sense of bald, meaning white.

Skewbald has been with us since the 1650s, meaning of brown and white coloring. Nobody’s sure where the skew in skewbald came from, but it’s pretty clear the bald bit came from that earlier white meaning of bald.

Who would think it’s germane, but in the 1840s the word chauvinism was born, meaning patriotism degenerated into a vice. It came from the character Nicolas Chauvin (of Théodore & Hipployte Cogniard’s play, La Cocarde Tricolore). This character hung onto his association with Napoleon & his politics long after Napoleon was gone. By the 1800s chauvinism broadened to also mean racism, & by the 1960s chauvinism began to mean sexism. Chauvin is the French form of Calvin, which comes from the Latin word calvus, meaning bald. Though paintings of John Calvin (originator of Calvinism) always show him wearing a natty cap, one must wonder why John Calvin wore that natty cap.

Any thoughts out there on baldness? If so, please leave a comment.





4 comments:

  1. Who knew? Chauvin was a guy! I know we all threw that word around a lot in the 1970s, and I'll bet nobody had a clue where it came from.

    And yeah, absolutely, John Calvin is probably hiding a bald spot. Or a magpie spot. Or something...

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    1. Hey Anne - Excellent. We probably need some research done on the causes of male magpie spot baldness, eh?

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  2. You had me at bald. This one I take personally. :) Whodathunk John Calvin was bald? I always wondered about that. (No, not really.) But this is an interesting post, Charlie. Love the part about chauvinism meaning "patriotism degenerated into a vice." I think we have a lot of that going on these days at the WH. Hugs, Paul

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    1. Paul - as always, it's great to "hear" from you. Thanks for pulling my favorite tidbit from this post. And yes, it does seem that these days we've got a lot of chauvinism going on. Heavy sigh.

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