And so it begins... with a thing about "thing".
Nice! On a similar theme, I’ll never forget when I discovered that ‘uppercase’ and ‘lowercase’ in typography refers to where printers kept the letters!
The Althing (Icelandic: Alþingi) is the national parliament of Iceland. It is the oldest legislature in the world that still exists. It was founded in 930 at Thingvellir (the "assembly fields") there’s your thing (thorn) still in use. In Iceland it’s still pronounced. So it’s Althang in our pronunciation. Also in its original usage of assembly.
I'd never heard of a 'substack' until yesterday. Now I know. It's a 'thing' apparently;)
Feeling good so far.
[mms subscriber since the days it used to be done by pigeon post, circa 2005. Still the proud owner of More Tomorrow, un-numbered, un-lettered, signed copy.]
Well don't feel too bad. I only recently made the link between the verb in Spanish "parar" to stop and the word for sun "sol". "Parasol" i.e "sun stopper". Oi vey...🤦
The Norwegian (and German, I think) word tøy (tygi in old norse) used to have a similar meaning as “thing”. And it is now a part of many words, the same way thing/ting is. As far as I know it was used as a word for things one needed. In modern tongue it means “cloth”.
My home town Fredrikstad is an old fortified town, and the largest building inside the old fortification is called “Tøyhuset” (something like “stuff house/house with stuff you’ll need). I always smile at that. Norwegian is a very descriptive language. Our word for a hospital is “sick house”. And an airplane is simply “fly”.
I studied French, German and Latin for A-level, an indication of my love of languages (and the fact that I was supremely unqualified to study anything else...). Etymology and the evolution of language has always fascinated me, so your first proper Substack was right up my street.
I recently made a long-overdue linguistic connection (whilst driving my bus, no less - I used to do my best thinking on the toilet, now I do it in my cab. Thinking, that is...): I learned while watching Narcos that the Spanish word for "same" is "mismo". My epiphany came when I realised that the French for the same word is "même". Those of you who listened during French lessons will know that the circumflex accent (the little hat) over a vowel usually denotes that it used to be followed by the letter s. Thus "tête" (head) was originally "teste" in Old French, which was derived from the Latin "testa". So then, "même" used to be "mesme" (now very similar to its Spanish cognate "mismo", derived from the Vulgar Latin "metipse", also meaning "same". I spent the rest of the day feeling unutterably smug. 🤣
So yes, more of this, please!
Brilliant beginning! I love a good dose of etymology.
One of my hobbies pre-marriage was calligraphy, specifically making Medieval scrolls for the SCA. I've written quite a few eths and thorns. When I worked in the legal field writing software to help them load documents used in their cases, the standard was to use an eth and a thorn to mark the beginnings and endings of sentences (because " and . were part of what we were capturing). I haven't used Microsoft Word in a long time, but eth and thorn used to be easy to find in their user interface, but I don't know if they've changed it.
Ah. So this isn’t about the John Carpenter film then.
This thing was an excellent read. No matter how often these things come I know they will never be a þorn in my side.
Hi Michael! Eagerly awaiting news of a new novel from you. Will we see any more of Nolan Moore? He’s one of my favorite characters.
So, how does “Thing” from the Addams Family fit into your subject matter?
Hey, Mike. Don't know if your sign-off about "excitement" was supposed to be ironic, but if it was, it didn't land for me. Etymology IS exciting!!
So wonderful to receive your musings Mr MMS. I will keep my message simple (and fawning). I have been an admirer of your books since the early days of Spares and Only Forward. We need another book... extremely pretty please? 😊
So I just learned a thing or two from a favorite word slinger of mine. But this Substack thing sounds like something on an iHop menu. Looking forward to your daily insights.
I know very little about the history of English words, but I do tend to use them often. The history of "thing" was pretty interesting and piqued my interest a bit in learning about where other words come from. Oh, and Old Norse runes are sooo cool!