Thursday, July 27, 2017

Stop that...!

Stop that….!

Adults have an unlimited number of ways to label the unwanted noise of children, and most those words are pretty interesting.

Though my father was the uncrowned king of foul language, his default word for kid-noise was pretty tame. Racket appeared in English in the 1560s, meaning loud noise. Racket appears to be imitative in nature, &/or may be related to the Gaelic word for noise, racaid. The added meaning dishonest activity came to English a bit later & most likely has to do with the purposeful noisy kerfuffle made by a pickpocket’s compadre with intent to distract the pickpocket’s victim. As used in the game of tennis, racquet came to English in the 1500s & appears to have come from the Arabic word rahat, meaning the palm of the hand (the precursor to the game of tennis looked a bit more like handball).

Clamor came to English through French in the late 1300s from a word meaning outcry, call or appeal

In the early 1300s English picked up the word noise from an Old French word that meant din, disturbance or brawl. The Old French word came from a Latin word which was used figuratively to mean disgust, annoyance, or discomfort, but literally meant seasick. This Latin word was nausea.

One school of etymologists tells us a Low German word meaning cry like a cat gave us caterwaul. Another school argues that caterwaul came from adding the Dutch word cater (tomcat) to the Middle English word waul (to yowl). At least these two arguing groups both agree caterwaul appeared in English in the late 1300s.

Tumult comes from a Latin word meaning commotion, disturbance, or uproar, & — like clamor, noise, & caterwaul — arrived in English in the late 1300s. Tumult is related to the word tumere, meaning to be excited, to swell. Tumere also gave us tumor, tuber, & tumescent.

And last there is din, which the Old English spelled dyne. Din came through Germanic sources from a Proto-Indo-European word meaning to make noise.

Have any noise to make about all this? If so, please do so in the comments section.

My thanks go out to this week’s sources Etymonline, Collins Dictionary, Merriam Webster, Wordnik, & the OED.


  1. I have always wondered why a word for loud noise was the same as one for a con game. Now I know! Pickpockets making a distracting noise--makes sense.

    I've always liked the word caterwaul. I'm glad to find out it comes from exactly where you'd think it did: yowling cats!

    Thanks, as usual for all the enlightenment!

    1. And thank you for coming by & having something to say (in non-caterwauling fashion).

  2. My mom always used racket. Seems to fit. Can you imagine the racket seven kids could make? Yikes. Noise=nausea. Yep. I'll go along with that.

    1. Hey Christine - thanks for coming by, & may your days be noise/nausea-free.

  3. You know that I am a BIG fan of your writing (and sense of humor), but I don't always stop and leave a comment. So, here it is. A comment!

  4. Hi Sharon -- Thanks so much for coming by. I'm honored that you're a big fan.

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