Words change their meanings over time. “Clue” used to mean a ball of string or twine. Theseus, the man who went into the Labyrinth to kill the Minotaur (half-man, half-bull), knew he would need help getting out in a hurry. He unraveled a ball of twine as he went in, leaving a way to find the way out. The ball of twine was called a “clew” until the 1500s, and the spelling eventually got turned into “clue” along with a shift in meaning.
“Brave,” which now means courageous, originally comes from the same Latin world as “barbarous,” and originally meant “savage,” or “wild.”
“Crazy” used to mean something was covered with cracks. A crazy boat would sink. People who work with pottery still say that a surface is “crazed” when it is covered with cracks. Eventually, the idea that people who had mental cracks were unstable became the word “crazy” and meant mentally ill.
Vermillion is a red color. It was originally used as a noun in the 13th century, when it was a dye. In Latin, vermiculus means “little worm.” The red dye used both in ancient and modern times comes from the cochineal insect, whose body produces an acid which is bright red. It keeps it safe from predators. Vermiculus became Vermillion over the years.
The insect grows on flat-leaf cacti, like the Prickly Pear. The white, cottony substance is scraped off and the red dye is still used to color candy and cosmetics.
The same red association also gave us the word “vermeil,” which is gold painted over silver. The original fusing was done using high heat, during which the entire piece glowed red.
Vermicelli, the small, thin pasta comes from the same root word. It’s been busy through the centuries.
“Sky” comes from the Norse and means “cloud.” Probably due to skies that were almost always cloud-covered, the word eventually came to mean the sky itself.
Meat. In Old English there were two types of nourishment–drink and solid food. All solid food was called “meat.” Eventually (but after 1700), meat meant the food that comes from animals, and was separate from edible fruits and vegetables.
–Quinn McDonald likes to start the week with food for thought, whether it is meat or not.