Thursday, April 18, 2013

Carpets & Rugs

Carpets & Rugs

We walk on them all the time, but do we ever take the time to think of their etymologies?

The word carpet made its way into English in the 1200s, meaning coarse cloth, tablecloth or bedspread. It entered English from the Old French word carpite, which referred to heavy, decorated cloth. This came from the Medieval Latin word carpite, which began with the word carpere, to card or to pluck. This most likely had to do with the fact that wool, cotton, and other weaving materials required some sort of plucking before they could be wrassled into threads or yarn, and then woven into cloth.

It wasn’t until the 1400s that carpets clearly belonged on floors.

Oddly, rugs didn’t start on the floor either. The word rug entered English in the 1550s, from Norwegian rugga, meaning coarse fabric or coverlet. It took until the 1800s for rugs to land soundly on the floor.

Some rug & carpet tidbits:

Though nobody’s sure when the term roll out the red carpet became popular, the custom of rolling out a red carpet to celebrate royalty or popularity appears to have begun in ancient Greek myth when Clytaemnestra rolled one out for Agamemnon.

1769 to be snug as a bug in a rug
1823 to be called on the carpet
1940 theatre slang labeled a toupee a rug
1942 to cut a rug
1953 to sweep something under the carpet
1968 the word rugrat was born

So, good followers, what rug- or carpet-related thoughts do you have?

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

Thursday, April 11, 2013



I’ll keep this post short, as I’m hoping you’ll all take the time to listen to this performance piece by fifteen year-old poet, Noah St, John. I ran into it on fellow SCBWI member, Lee Wind’s blog & found Noah to be an inspiration.

Inspire came to English in the 1350s in the form of enspiren & primarily meant to fill the mind or heart with grace. I hope you’re able to eke out six minutes to watch it. I also hope it fills your mind or heart with grace.


My thanks go out to this week’s sources the OED, Lee Wind’s Blog & Etymonline,

Thursday, April 4, 2013



For years now I’ve been laughingly referring to myself as a minion. Officially, I’m one of two San Luis Obispo co-coordinators for the Central-Coastal Region of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. The tongue-tripping title has a causal relationship to my preference for the moniker, minion.

In my California baby-boomer upbringing, I understood that a minion was a devoted helper – usually of some nefarious villain. Nefarious villains aside, I’ve always had an affinity for the word. Imagine my surprise upon discovering that minion has a myriad of deliciously disparate meanings.

The OED devotes two thirds of a page to minion, which appeared first in English about the year 1500. Though most etymologists believe it came from the Old High German word minnja or minna, meaning love, others put its source in the Celtic combining form, min- or small, which was borrowed from Latin. The OED’s definitions (slightly abbreviated) for minion include:

a.    a beloved object, darling or favorite
b.    a lover, lady-love, mistress or paramour
c.     a dearest friend or favorite child, servant or animal
d.    one who owes everything to his patron’s favor & is ready to purchase its continuance by base compliances
e.    a form of address, meaning darling or dear one
f.      a hussy, jade, servile creature or slave
g.    a gallant, an exquisite
h.    an adjective meaning dainty, fine, elegant, pretty or neat

The last few OED meanings are really out there.

a.    a small kind of ordnance
b.    a type of peach
c.     a type of lettuce
d.    a typesetter’s term identifying a medium-size font

Some non-OED definitions compiled by the wonderful folks at Wordnik include:

a.    an obsequious follower or sycophant
b.    a pert or saucy girl or woman
c.     loyal servant of a powerful being

Good followers, I will keep my theories to myself in hopes that you will spout forth your own. How did this one simple word end up being its own antonym in multiple ways? And what’s up with the lettuce, anyway?

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