Monday, November 16, 2009

Were Screwed!

Etymology – et·y·mol·o·gy
1 : the history of a linguistic form (as a word) shown by tracing its development since its earliest recorded occurrence in the language where it is found, by tracing its transmission from one language to another, by analyzing it into its component parts, by identifying its cognates in other languages, or by tracing it and its cognates to a common ancestral form in an ancestral language.

In short it’s the history of words. I have always been interested in the “back stories” of individual words, how the word started, and how it got to mean what it means now.

“Sincerely” is one of my favorite examples. In Latin “sincere” literally means “without wax”. How in the hell did we get to signing letters with a derivative of “without wax”?

The story goes that that in Roman time’s greedy contractors would mix cheap wax into expensive concrete mix. Of course this made for substandard concrete. So the boast or warrantee of “no wax” became important. You were a sincere merchant. Thousands of years later when you sign your letter you still boast of your honesty but thoughts of concrete or wax never once enter your mind. Fun huh?

So this week the thought occurred to me how did “I’m Screwed” (or the hundreds of variations thereof) come to be a bad thing? I mean the vast majority of people enjoy and want sex under most circumstances so how did *that* phrase come to generally mean “something bad is going to happen to me”?

Sorry, no cute answer here, I am genuinely pondering it.

Conversely, how in the world did one of the most despicable things a human could be, a pimp, come to be a good thing? “That’s pimping” is somehow a complement? Pimp my ride means make it cool? Being someone that hurts women and steals their money was somehow twisted into a compliment? I can’t figure that one out either.

Any insights are welcome.


Anonymous said...

I think there's a big difference between "legitimate" words and the way young people turn words into slang. My son recently told me that his friend got a totally "sick" new video game. That doesn't sound fun!

Maria in Oregon

Melek said...

i think the "pimp my ride" came from the stereotype that pimps generally dress in a flambouyant manner. the big pimp hat, boa, zebra striped velvet suit.... so, if you pimp your car, you dress it up in an outrageous manner, like a pimp. yeah, dumb, but that's the parallel i see in the word.

btw, i LOVE learning about words!
have you heard why a slutty girl is called "Loose"? bc in earlier times, if a girl was more promiscuous, she wouldn't lace her corset up tight...she'd wear it loose - either for a sexier look or bc it was easier to get into. either way, she was considered a 'loose' girl.