Etymology Corner- Book

My computer keeps eating these write-ups yeah yeah Etymology Corner (but imagine it like a song)

Books! Germanic languages use this term rather than the Romance libro, likely because the ancients used tablets of beechwood to write on before combining these tablets into books. This same *bokjon is the root of buckwheat, since the seeds of buckwheat look sorta like beech nuts.

Yeah, beech! Beech is likely a relative of the Latin fagus which gave us the scientific name and is probably a distant cousin of Greek phagein. Science types know that phagein means the same thing as its Proto-Indo-European root, *bhagos, to eat! Actually, the *bhag root doesn’t just refer to eating, but to distributing any shared resource among each other.

Yeah, turns out “book” is directly from eating stuff! Beech trees have edible nuts and if you’re some kind of tree-eating animal, edible everything else. The *bhagos root gives us a lot of words. You can recognize the Greek root with so many words about eating that contain some form of -phagy. This gives us words like esophagus and even words you don’t associate with eating, like the metaphorically flesh-eating sarcophagus. If all this talk of eating makes you nebbish, no fear, because that Yiddish term via Slavic roots also comes from *bhagos!

Of course, it’s not all Greek to us. Proto-Indo-European is also the ancestor of many Indian languages. Sanskrit bhagah means allotter or distributor and gives us the name for Bhagavad-Gita, the Hindu dialogue between gods. The same root may have influenced the Persian pagavadi meaning the house of a deity which may have influenced the Portugese word which gave us pagoda.

So share some books with friends and eat up that knowledge, cuz that’s all book stuff!


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