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The more I read and the more I write, the more I am fascinated by words. I know that the English language has adopted words from many other languages: pajamas and bungalow from Hindu; alligator, burro and mosquito from Spanish; depot, chic and brunette from French; apartment, balcony and torso from Italian. But there are words out there that give me pause. Names, for example.
In the middle ages, when everything was hand written, names were shortened to save time and ink. Thus, Richard became Rich or Rick. And, at the same time, both letter swapping, and rhyming were popular so Richard to Rick to Dick, and William to Will to Bill. First names were also in short supply back then, so letter swapping allowed people to differentiate between others with the same name. It was common to replace the first letter of a name that began with a vowel, as in Edward, with an easier to pronounce consonant, such as T. That’s how Edward eventually became Ted.
Margaret to Meg sort of makes sense and Meg to Peg is in keeping with the practice of rhyming, but Margaret to Daisy? That’s a bit of a puzzler which no amount of research helped.
And the list goes on. However, when I got a paper cut this past week and needed a band aid, I wondered how “aiding” a “band” came to mean protecting my oowie. Here’s how:
In Old English, a bende was something by which someone or something was bound. At the same time, a bande was French for a strip, and bindan, was German for to bind. In old French, aide was a noun for help or assistance. Skip ahead to the 1920s, when Elizabeth Dickson, the wife of a Johnson & Johnson employee, came up with a band aid prototype for her various cuts, scraps, and burns. Her husband, Earle, then passed the idea on to J&J, which went on to produce and market the product as the Band-Aid. Earle rose to a vice presidency and J&J made a lot of money. Presumably, Elizabeth continued taking care of the house.
Another product I use a lot and whose name I found puzzling is Absorbine Jr. Why junior?
In 1892, a man named W.F. Young delivered cargo using a wagon and team of horses. During the day, his wife Mary took care of their home, and in the evening she cared for the horses. In those days, when a horse strained a tendon, muscle or joint, it was treated by “blistering.” Quoting "Wiktionary, "the practice of forming blisters on the skin, to promote blood flow and aid healing" since it was believed allowing more blood to enter the afflicted area through the skin helped the healing process.
The Youngs disapproved of this harsh method of treatment, and Mary, who was an herbalist, created a liniment of menthol, wormwood oil, and herbs in her kitchen as an alternative to blistering. She called her cream Absorbine Veterinary Liniment. “Ine” comes from the Greek and means “pertaining to” or “in the nature of.” Thus: a liniment that is in the nature of absorbing. The Youngs used it on their own horses and marketed it to neighbors. As its popularity grew, the couple founded W.Y. Young Company P.D.F. (I have no idea what P.D.F. stood for back then.)
So—things were going well; animal owners (and presumably their animals) were happy with the products. Then, Wilber and Mary’s son, Wilber F. Young Junior, suggested they create a version of the liniment for humans. Absorbine Jr. --the junior added in recognitions of its being their son's idea--was introduced in 1903 and is now a household staple.
How adding prefixes and suffixes to a non word is a mystery, and until I sold it, I must conclude.