In elementary school I had a teacher who'd often tell the class that it was time to put on our thinking caps. Have you ever heard that expression before? As a child, after I banished the image of putting on an actual cap, those words would help me become quiet and serious and more thoughtful. I kind of feel like I need to put on my thinking cap when I do this meme, Wondrous Words Wednesday, hosted by Kathy from BermudaOnion's Weblog. It's one that encourages me to think a bit more deeply about words, about their meanings and origins.
Once again, these words are from my 365 New Words-a-Year calendar. The reverse side of each calendar page includes etymology which provides additional insight into the words presented.
1. funambulism: tightrope walking; a show of mental agility
The contestant on Jeopardy astounded the judges and audience with her funambulism, and her prize money kept growing higher.
The Latin word for "tightrope walker" is funambulus, from the Latin funis, meaning "rope", and ambulare, meaning "to walk" ; the term soon also came to mean an impressive act or feat of mental agility or skill.
2. jeunesse dorée: young people of wealth and fashion; gilded youth
The upscale mall was crowded with jeunesse dorée, wearing skinny jeans and sipping caramel macchiatos.
Although the term originally described the "stylish young thugs" who terrorized remaining Jacobins in France after the execution of Robespierre in 1794, by the time it was adopted into English in the 1830s, it simply referred to wealthy young socialites.
3. vade mecum: a book for ready reference, such as a manual; an object regularly carried around by a person
Before personal computers became the norm, a set of encyclopedias was the vade mecum for many families. (This sounds a bit awkward--am I using the term correctly?) These days, a cell phone seems to be a vade mecum for many people, myself included.
What etymological discoveries have you encountered recently?