The top ten: Unrelated pairs of words
John Rentoul is chief political commentator for The Independent on Sunday, and visiting professor at Queen Mary, University of London, where he teaches contemporary history. Previously he was chief leader writer for The Independent. He has written a biography of Tony Blair, whom he admired more at the end of his time in office than he did at the beginning.
Sunday 20 April 2014
Thanks to Calum for suggesting this list: I did not believe that there were as many as 10 examples, thinking 'female', 'island' and 'outrage' quite enough excitement for one language. And thanks to Rich Greenhill, whose four examples proved me wrong...
1. Female, not related to male Female is from the Latin femella, a diminutive of femina, a woman; while male is from the Old French masle, from the Latin masculus.
2. Island, isle Old English iegland, ieg, from a base meaning watery, according to the Oxford Dictionary. The "s" came by association with isle, from the Latin insula via Old French.
3. Outrage, rage From Old French ou(l)trage, based on Latin ultra, beyond. Nominated by Edmund W.
4. Uproar, roar Middle Dutch oproer, from op, meaning up, and roer, meaning confusion. Suggested by Rich Greenhill.
5. Bridegroom, groom Old English brydguma, from bryd, bride, and guma, man. The change in the second syllable influenced by groom. Rich Greenhill again.
6. Pickaxe, axe Middle English pikoys, from Old French picois, related to pike. The change in the ending was influenced by axe. Another from Rich Greenhill.
7. Gingerbread, bread Originally meant preserved ginger used to make the biscuit, from Old French gingembrat, from medieval Latin gingibratum, from gingiber. Yet another from Rich.
8. Belfry, bell Originally a watchtower, from French berfrei, but because it had bells, it acquired an "l". Nominated by Anu Garg.
9. Muskrat, musk The animal does produce a musky smell, but the word is actually from Algonquin for "red". Suggested by David Shariatmadari.
10. Crayfish, fish From Old French crevice, related to German Krebs, crab. The ending altered by association with fish in about the 16th century. Also from David Shariatmadari.
Next week: Signs with double meanings (such as 'Children: please drive slowly').
Coming soon: Footnotes. Send your suggestions, and ideas for future Top 10s, to firstname.lastname@example.org
After giving gay film R-rating despite no sex or violencefilm
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
- 2 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
- 3 Kajieme Powell: Missouri police release video footage of second man killed by officers
- 4 Paul Scholes: Manchester United need five experienced players who can turn round a desperate situation
- 5 James Foley 'beheading': Met police warn public watching murder video could be criminal offence
Laughs go global as Eddie Izzard and Dylan Moran bring international comedians to the Edinburgh Fringe
The Top Ten: Horrible buildings
JK Rowling writes new Harry Potter story on Pottermore: Introducing 'Singing Sorceress' Celestina Warbuck
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Celebrity Big Brother 2014 line-up: Meet the contestants from Lauren Goodger to Kellie Maloney and Audley Harrison
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
Crisis? What crisis? A visiting US doctor gives the NHS a rave review
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
Scottish Independence Referendum: Salmond described as 'arrogant, ambitious and dishonest' by Scottish women