Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Pulchritude (and other words)

Of course I know the meaning of the word pulchritude, but it always sound to me like a "dirty word".  (That may be because I like dirty words).


I am reading "Under Magnolia - A Southern Memoir" by Frances Mayes (Crown Publishing 2014). It's a sweet and bitter, sad and funny of life as she grew up in the small town of Fitzgerald, GA.

Here, from the New York Times,  is a review of the book:


On page 159 Frances Mayes  muses about the Greek and Latin roots of some of our everyday words. I  looked into this at

Have fun and see if you can discover the common roots of the words subtle, textile, text, and texture.

(Subtle was the one which I least expected).

subtle (adj.) Look up subtle at
c. 1300 (mid-13c. as a surname), sotil, "penetrating; ingenious; refined" (of the mind); "sophisticated, intricate, abstruse" (of arguments), from Old French sotilsoutilsubtil"adept, adroit; cunning, wise; detailed; well-crafted" (12c., Modern French subtil), from Latin subtilis "fine, thin, delicate, finely woven;" figuratively "precise, exact, accurate," in taste or judgment, "fine, keen," of style, "plain, simple, direct," from sub "under" (see sub-) + -tilis, from tela "web, net, warp of a fabric"

textile (n.) Look up textile at
1620s, from Latin textilis "a web, canvas, woven fabric, cloth, something woven," noun use of textilis "woven, wrought," from texere "to weave," from PIE root *teks- "to make"

text (n.) Look up text at
late 14c., "wording of anything written," from Old French texte, Old North French tixte "text, book; Gospels" (12c.), from Medieval Latin textus "the Scriptures, text, treatise," in Late Latin "written account, content, characters used in a document," from Latin textus "style or texture of a work," literally "thing woven," from past participle stem oftexere "to weave, to join, fit together, braid, interweave, construct, fabricate, build," from PIE root *teks- "to weave, to fabricate, to make; make wicker or wattle framework" (see texture (n.)).
An ancient metaphor: thought is a thread, and the raconteur is a spinner of yarns -- but the true storyteller, the poet, is a weaver. The scribes made this old and audible abstraction into a new and visible fact. After long practice, their work took on such an even, flexible texture that they called the written page a textus, which means cloth. [Robert Bringhurst, "The Elements of Typographic Style"]

texture (n.) Look up texture at
early 15c., "network, structure," from Middle French texture and directly from Latin textura "web, texture, structure," from stem of texere "to weave," from PIE root *teks- "to weave, to fabricate, to make; make wicker or wattle framework"


Frances Mayes also reminded me that that word Khaki is derived from an Urdu/Hindi word meaning "dust coloured".

No comments:

Post a Comment