Skip to content

Semicolons, triangles and scalps

Semicolon (“;”) is derived from colon (“:”).

For a moment there I was tempted to leave the post at that point, but I’m saving the joke for the next Fool’s Day.

So I’ll add that a colon in Latin was a part of a poem, and eventually this meaning transferred to the punctuation mark used to introduce it. Latin had taken the term from Greek, where it meant limb. It had come from Proto-Indo European (or PIE as we close friends call her) *(s)kel- meaning something crooked, bent or perverted.

From there we also got some straightforward words like scalene, name for a triangle with all sides uneven. But a more roundabout trip gives us such a dark verb as scalp.

How did that happen? The evolution seems to be this way: it came into English from Old Norse skalli “bald head,” that was in turn from Old Norse skal “cup” from Proto-Germanic *skælo (to split) … which takes us back to PIE *(s)kel. The jump from split to cup comes from using half of something to drink, like half a seashell or half a coconut (ok probably not a coconut in those regions).

Sources: [1] [2] [3]

Originally published in The blind mouse.

Podes interaxir con esta entrada de moitas formas: con pingbacks, con webmentions ou simplemente respondendo a través do Fediverso, por exemplo visitándela en Mastodon.