Jun 10th 2015

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Ginger Presents: “Words Gone Wrong”

words (640x479) Hey guys,

As we all know language is a form of communication, created and used by humans (although, some might say that animals have languages of their own).
A language is formed by words which show give meaning to one’s thoughts. Languages, and especially words, are constantly changing. In many cases, the change is driven by mistakes. These mistakes can derive from mishearing, inversion of sounds, dropping and adding of sounds, and other all-too-human errors.

Below are examples of 7 words that started as errors:

  • Sashay – “To walk, move or proceed, especially in an easy or nonchalantly manner”

This word is a metastatic variant of the French word chassé (“a gliding dancing step, in which one foot is chasing the other”). The “sh” and “s” sounds were switched from the original pronunciation.

  • Tornado – “A localized and violently destructive windstorm occurring over land characterized by a funnel-shaped cloud extending toward the ground”.

This word comes from the Spanish word for “thunderstorm,” tronada. The inversion of two sounds, in this case the “r” and the “o,” is a process known as metathesis.

  • Data –“A collection of facts from which conclusions may be drawn”

Often used in the singular, this word is actually a plural, the singular is datum.

  • Varsity – “A team representing a college or university”

This word originated as versity, a short form of the word university. The reason for the vowel changing is unknown.

  • Burst – “Come open suddenly and violently, as if from internal pressure”

This is a clear instance of metathesis, because the Proto-Germanic root is brest. At some point, the “r” sound jumped ahead in the word and the spelling followed suit.

  • Algorithm – “A precise set of rules specifying how to solve some problem”

The Medieval Latin source for this word, algorismus is actually a very bad transliteration of the name of the Arab mathematician who helped introduce higher math to the western world: “Al- Khwarizmi”.

Can you point out more words which started as errors?
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Liron and the Ginger Team.

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