Monday, September 1, 2014

Making Up Words

In addition to being a software engineer and a web comic author, I also create new words. Well, not with any sort of legitimacy I suppose. As far as I know, none of the words I've made up have ever found their way into the dictionary.

The title of today's comic is one such example.

"Verdosynthesis"

Much like photosynthesis (the suggested technology in the comic) comes from the roots "photo" and "synthesis" to mean creation of something from light, verdosynthesis is to mean the creation of something from greenness. But in this case, I am talking about the 21st century American definition of green which is of course best translated as "environmentally friendly."

Why did I use "verdo" as the first part of this word? You may be familiar with the Spanish word verde which translates to green in English. But the Spanish (and Italian) word traces back to the Latin viridis which was most likely from an even older root word that meant "growing plant." The same Latin root also carried forward into Old French as vert (which is the same word for green as in modern French - some things never change). From here, we got verdure in English which was used to describe a fresh, green color. But no one has really used that word since the 15th century. Words starting with verd- as an indication of something being green are not common in English today. There is verdigris, but that's used almost exclusively in chemistry (the green color of oxidized copper - like the Statue of Liberty) and not in the vernacular. For whatever reason, modern English uses the word green which I believe has Germanic roots.

The next question you should be asking yourself is why I know any of this. I guess you would say that I have an unusual interest in etymology. I say unusual because, seriously, how many people have an interest in etymology? Twelve? Maybe fifteen?

Also, don't confuse etymology with entomology. One is the study of word origins and the other is the study of insects. Very different. Although I suppose frogs would be more interested in entomology.

Amphibian.com comic for September 1, 2014