Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Steve Evans Etymology Entries 1-3

My first three etymology entries are: myth, history, and context. These come from a curiosity I have on each. I had always assumed that myths were untrue tales, but have learned that they are tales of a supernatural or divine character. The word of story in many romance languages is akin to historia; I wonder why? And, because of my work, a lot of emphasis is placed on context; in fact, a mantra of ours is “without context there is no meaning.”

1. Myth

1830, from Gk. mythos "speech, thought, story, myth," of unknown origin.
Myths are "stories about divine beings, generally arranged in a coherent system; they are revered as true and sacred; they are endorsed by rulers and priests; and closely linked to religion. Once this link is broken, and the actors in the story are not regarded as gods but as human heroes, giants or fairies, it is no longer a myth but a folktale. Where the central actor is divine but the story is trivial ... the result is religious legend, not myth." [J. Simpson & S. Roud, "Dictionary of English Folklore," Oxford, 2000, p.254]General sense of "untrue story, rumor" is from 1840.

2. History

1390, "relation of incidents" (true or false), from O.Fr. historie, from L. historia "narrative, account, tale, story," from Gk. historia "a learning or knowing by inquiry, history, record, narrative," from historein "inquire," from histor "wise man, judge," from PIE *wid-tor-, from base *weid- "to know," lit. "to see" (see vision). Related to Gk. idein "to see," and to eidenai "to know." In M.E., not differentiated from story; sense of "record of past events" probably first attested 1485. Sense of "systematic account (without reference to time) of a set of natural phenomena" (1567) is now obs. except in natural history. What is historic (1669) is noted or celebrated in history; what is historical (1561) deals with history. Historian "writer of history in the higher sense," distinguished from a mere annalist or chronicler, is from 1531. The O.E. word was ├żeod-wita.

3. Context

1432, from L. contextus "a joining together," orig. pp. of contexere "to weave together," from com- "together" + textere "to weave" (see texture).

†construction, composition XV; connected structure of a composition or passage, parts immediately before and after a given passage XVI. — L. contextus, f. context-, pp. stem of contexere weave together, f. CON- + texere weave.Hence contextual XIX.

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