English Word Origins: Their Romantic Stories
by Christine Jackman, CET
My 23 years of experience as a verbatim court reporter within a successful and targeted business career of 40 years has its roots in my early childhood.
One of my first childhood memories is at the age of four with my father. He took me to the Boise Public Library in Boise, Idaho to get my very first, my very own library card. You see, my father read me a story before bed every night for the first four years of my life.
In 1960, when I was four years old, I could read to my father. He continued to read to me those bedtime stories until I was nine only because I asked him to. Reading is the most precious gift my father ever gave to me.
When he passed away, I inherited a good number of Dad's most treasured books from the spare bedroom he had converted into his own personal library. He had built shelves from ceiling to floor on all four walls to accommodate his many boxes of books.
I recall alphabetizing by author each and every volume on those shelves. I spent part of a summer cataloging each of them, tagging the books with numbers that I cross-referenced with index cards.
Any time a book came off its shelf, Dad would write the name of the borrower with the date on the corresponding index card he pulled from the file.
He once told me he asked me to take on the library cataloging project because he knew that I shared his passion for books. It is that same passion that nurtured my lifelong interest in words and language.
For four years during junior high and high school, I studied Latin as an elective course of study. My drive to pursue this was that, even at a young age, I had a strong interest in law. I knew even then that Latin would be a great benefit in that field. These skills have come in really handy throughout my many years as a court transcriber, then later as an independent contracting transcriber.
In my collection of old books inherited from my father, I ran across one in particular that simply delighted me. It's entitled The Reader's Digest Great Encyclopedic Dictionary. It was published in 1966 by The Reader's Digest Association, Inc. The book contains Funk & Wagnalls' Standard College Dictionary with Special Supplements.
Near the back of this 2,094-page book, in a section within the Special Supplements, I discovered the following excerpt which was authored by Wilfred Funk of the famous Funk & Wagnalls, an American publisher known for its reference works including A Standard Dictionary of the English Language (1st ed. 1894).
"Sixty percent of the words of the English language reflect their Greek and Latin origins. Words that are literally making history today -- in speeches, textbooks, literature, and newspapers -- are tools that we have inherited from early times. Some are unchanged from their old Greek and Latin forms; hundreds of others contain ancient roots, prefixes, and suffixes that give essential meaning to modern English. Even a slight acquaintance with the Greek and Latin that survive in English gives greater fluency in our native tongue and develops a flair for using it.
"Greek and Latin have invaded English in several waves. The Romans, in subjugating Greece, absorbed much of its language. After the fall of Rome, through their Christian missionaries, they carried words of both languages to Britain. Here from the sixth of eleven centuries, the inhabitants absorbed both Greek and Latin into their language, now known as Early English.
"The second wave began when, in conquering Gaul (France), the Romans implanted Greek and Latin influence firmly there also. Long after, when the Normans of France conquered England in the eleventh century, they brought Greek and Latin into English through the French language.
"The third wave belongs to the English Renaissance of the sixteenth century. In the tremendous upsurge of interest in Greek and Latin literature, authors and scholars again drew heavily on its vocabulary.
"To cap all this, modern science brought many more Greek and Latin words into English, as botany, biology, and chemistry were 'standardized' with scientific terms based on these two ancient languages.
"Hardly an English sentence appears that does not contain one or more Greek and Latin components of our language. They endure while Acropolis crumbles and wild poppies grow among the columns of Pompeii."
I share this article with my fellow transcribers and court reporters for the simple knowledge it imparts and some of the history that brings English to us as we know it today, the same language that is woven throughout our daily transcription work.
Even though nowadays words and language can be accessed and verified online, I will always keep the bound treasures my father left for me. It somehow gives tangible meaning to some of those early choices in my educational path.
Christine Jackman, AAERT CET0208
Advantage Business Solutions
AAERT Member since 1999 and proud, successful business owner since that time as well!