Saturday, August 7, 2010

"What's in a name?" or "Why the heck did they call it that?"

  I chose the name of my blog due to a definition that I read repeatedly about my own name.

  Bruce - 
     origin: Celtic
     meaning: watcher in the thicket

  When I first read this (at the the age of around 11) I had to ask what a thicket was, and then I had to ask why I would be standing in it. It didn't make much sense to me then, but as the years went on and I learned more about myself I found that it was fairly appropriate. I have spent most of my life in love with the outdoors. I don't have to be in it all the time, but I am truly at home there. I also like to just sit and watch nature while I am in it. Granted, I don't jump into the nearest patch of bramble and stare at things. That leads to strange looks from anyone else I'm with and various scratches in places where no thorns should ever be. No, I just like to observe the world around me, and not always in the woods. I'm perfectly happy sitting on a park bench, at a mall, or in a restaurant and watching the movement of life around me. It's like I'm seeing a story unfold around me.
  Now, I know that many people have viewed the definition of my name in a slightly different light. In an slightly more voyeuristic way. Watcher in the thicket.
  "So, you like to stand in the bushes and watch people? That's kind of creepy." Not exactly how I think about it, but I can see why they ask.
  Why am I writing about this? Because words are interesting. They are like people in some ways. They change and evolve over time. I was reading earlier today about the word "coffee", a subject dear to me. Traced back in time coffee can be followed back through four different languages to a phrase that means "wine of the bean". Over time this phrase (which I will not even attempt to type) evolved to "coffee", a word so far from the original that it is difficult to even see it as being related.
  There are so many words that we as Americans simply ignore, or don't appreciate. It is as if the language that we use is becoming devalued. Perhaps it's just the standard American view of history. As a country we have such a short one in comparison to other countries, so instead of looking back we are constantly looking forward. It saddens me that we are losing the history of our language.
  Ever wear pajamas? You know, those things we pass off as bedtime clothing? Pai Jamas were loose trousers that tied around the waist worn by Indian Muslims over 200 years ago. What is that stuff you put on your hamburgers? Ketchup? It was originally a fish sauce known as "brine of fish" or "kichap" from Malay back in the 1700's. British versions of it later included other various items ranging from nuts to oysters. You can thank the US military for making it into what later became your favorite condiment. What about tattoos? Originally "tap to", the phrase was called out to signal soldiers and sailors to quarters over three centuries ago. It referred to the sound their feet should be making on their way to quarters. This later translated to the rhythmic tapping of something to form a beat. Which then later paired with the Polynesian word Tatau that described the markings of skin through the piercing of the skin. Should it not be interesting then that the tattoo of the needle is necessary to make the tattoo on the arm?

   Words have meaning and power, but they also have history. Does this mean that I am destined to be a voyeur or a peeping tom as my name seems to suggest? No if I can help it, but I can at least be entertained by the idea. I just want to find the meanings of the words we say. It keeps my mind busy, and it helps keep a little more history alive within me.

No comments:

Post a Comment