01.16.09

Cold Chills

Posted in Figuratively Speaking at 9:54 am by Marion

FIGURATIVELY SPEAKING

It’s 18 degrees F outside. There are more birds in the yard than usual, and of many kinds … ruby-crowned kinglets, goldfinches, a red-bellied woodpecker on the feeder. This year the blocks of juncos are oddly absent, though I have seen them elsewhere in the neighborhood, and one slate-gray snowbird appeared on my feeder this morning.

So today’s Figuratively Speaking gets the low-down on cold.

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Where to begin! What other word gives us so many possibilities?

Cold comes to us from the Old English cald, which comes to us from German. It’s related to the Dutch koud and German kalt … the hard consonants we often see in these two languages.

Now it gets interesting: Cold is also related to the Latin gelu or frost.

This Latin word can be seen in the Italian gelato … the French geler, to freeze.

Here’s a twist fit for a cold Friday: the Latin gelu also gives us jelly … from the Latin gelata, frozen … from gelare, “freeze.”

Our variations are nearly infinite. Cold shoulder, cold-hearted, cold sweat, cold turkey … these terms all imply something difficult … or hard … just as a frozen face shows no emotion.

A fitting word for a mystical time of year, when as primitives we braced ourselves for the fearsome season and petitioned unknown spirits to keep us alive, careful not to appear afraid, though deeply so.

Image by DHD Multimedia Gallery

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