Words are the Ultimate Hand-Me-Downs

It’s funny the words you guess when you’re playing Boggle, or Scrabble, or word-games like that. Some of them you don’t even know the meaning of until you look them up.

One my opponent tried was “ween”, which derives from old Germanic roots through to an old English origin. It means “to think/to be of the opinion of.” We sometimes see the trace of this word when we say someone is “overweening,” we mean that they are much too confident of their opinion – and we dip into a word perhaps used by our Anglo-Saxons ancestors of more than a thousand years ago.

What else can we say we have in common with those people of long ago? Some basic technologies and practices (the wheel, agriculture, religion) to be sure. But we have language also – and in some ways this is our most-used legacy from our predecessors.

Whenever we use a word, whether it’s from ancient Latin or ancient Greek, Dutch or old English, Spanish or Native American, we pay homage to the culture that originally generated it. We may not even know a thing about that culture, but our usage of the word preserves some part of that culture’s life and memory – just like our usage of a grandparent’s toolshed or a parents’ clothing preserves some piece of them in the world.

Words are the ultimate hand-me-downs, and it’s worth looking into the people who gave them to us, even if only during games of Boggle.

Photo by Romain Vignes on Unsplash

James Walpole

James Walpole is a writer, startup marketer, and perpetual apprentice. You're reading his blog right now, and he really appreciates it. Don't let it go to his head, though.

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