Apr 10 • 5M


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Debra Esolen
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Sometimes the most enjoyable words for me are those that have cousins everywhere in our large family of languages, and often they’re cousins that show up where you don’t expect them. For example, we’ve got the word thatch, which refers to that thick matting of earth and grass that you might use as the roof for your house in northern climes — you’re certainly not going to have baked-clay tiles such as they have in Italy. The thatch is a protection for your house, and that -tect- in there comes from Latin tegere, to cover, as with a roof. That prehistoric beast plated over with scales, like tiles? The archaeologists call it a stegosaurus, meaning, well, a lizard plated with tiles, and tile too is in the mix, from Latin tegula, the little thing you put on your roof. If you’re one of the old highway robbers in the Punjab, you want to keep things under cover: you’re a thag, which the British governors pronounced as thug. Quite a range, eh?

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