Isidore etymologises beggars and prostitutes


  • “The Latin word for ‘beggar’ (mendicus) is now believed to derive from an earlier word meaning ‘deformity’ or ‘lack’. Isidore, however, speculates a much more charming story, of a ‘custom among the ancients’ to ‘close the hungry mouth and extend a hand, as if speaking with the hand’ (manu dicere).”
  • His etymologies for “the words Fornicarius and Fornicatrix (male and female prostitute) explains that these terms come from the Latin word for ‘arch’ (fornix), and refers to the architecture of ancient brothels. Prostitutes were understood to lie under such arches while practising their trade. This is the same explanation for the word ‘fornicate’ offered in the Oxford English Dictionary today!”

    Hence perhaps the following early euphemisuse of the Dutch fietsen, to cycle, which someone (Arie Stronks?) taught me years ago and I hadn’t found until now:

    Onder de Amsterdamse brug,
    liggen de meisjes op hun rug,
    daar kun je gaan fietsen,
    daar kun je gaan fietsen,
    en als het fietsen is gedaan,
    dan moet het meisje in de kraam.

    “Köster Henke (De boeventaal, 1906) zitiert … die letzte Strophe eines ‘Straßenliedes’, das vermutlich auf eine (nicht mehr bekannte) Revue zurückgeht,” said Peter Holland, and then, unfortunately, he stopped bloggging, though he seems to have something to do with Hochroth and Caleidoscoop.

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