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Dec 13, 2008 | Quarant-ine?

There are some things about languages that really catches me off guard – the last time I felt this way was when people suggested to me that the Tower of Babel was the origins for the word “babble”: it turns out likely not to be the case, but still it had my head whirling for a bit.

Now as I was reading about how the Channel Island of Sark is about to abolish feudalism (and also how a one-man invasion attempt in 1990 was stopped by the volunteer constable) and I came across the following interesting fact:

quarantine (to isolate an item, person, for the purposes of control of unwanted disease) has its origins in the French number for forty (quarante) with a reference dating from the 1500s describing the “period of 40 days in which a widow has the right to remain in her dead husband’s house”. In the mid 1600s this transformed to “period a ship suspected of carrying disease is kept in isolation”, but it would have never occurred to me that there was a practical meaning to the word itself!

(Thanks to Douglas Harper and the Online Etymology Dictionary)

This entry was posted on Saturday, December 13th, 2008 at 10:10 pm, EST under the category of Uncategorized. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.