What’s the Word?

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Without knowing the force of words, it is impossible to know more.      

– Confucius

Words are alive. Like us, they were born, and they have been shaped over the course of their lives by all who have spoken and written them.

Not merely tools, words are lifetime companions and guides, which we inherited from our ancestors. Ultimately we are obligated to pass them on to future generations. But before doing so, words find themselves under our care, and we have the responsibility of honoring and sustaining them. This requires attention and dedication to exploring their diverse meanings as well as their origins.

Discovering the ancestry of our words is every bit as important as discovering where we ourselves came from. As human DNA provides the codes of our origins, the etymology of words discloses theirs. Printed and virtual (online) etymological dictionaries are available, giving us access to the original sources and meanings of words.

Ever since I was introduced to the regular practice of researching the etymology of words, I have been nothing less than fascinated with the depth and breadth of a single word’s reach. And so it is fitting that my debut blog includes the exploration of the word fascinate. It comes from the Latin verb “fascinare” (bewitch, enchant) and noun “fascinus” (a charm, enchantment, or spell; witchcraft).

It seems that being in a state of fascination has both positive and negative connotations. To be enchanted is quite desirable, but to be under the influence of a witch’s spell is not. How can one word have origins depicting these apparent opposites? I believe that the fear of witchcraft that is embedded in our history, and thus our bodies and minds, has put restrictions on the human capacity and need for being in awe and wonder. Further, the temporary prohibition of anything even remotely construed as witchcraft, upon penalty of horrendous death, has scared away even the most courageous folk from recognizing and embracing their own intuitive power and cosmic connections. That diminishment still lingers today, but I personally think we’ve got it on the run. I believe a tipping point has been reached whereby the recovery of enchantment is on the rise, along with the reclaiming of our personal power.

Something wonderful happens when I start exploring a word’s etymology. I get directed to other words that share the same root, and before I know it I’ve gathered a full and rich story (which is the Old English definition of “spell”). Yep, I’m under a spell, alright. I am bewitched (which literally means “to have liveliness and strength all around me”), and enchanted (which literally means “to be sung upon or into”). Words can do that, you see, because they are alive.

What fascinates you?

All blessings on your path,

 Cathie

 

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