Etymology Corner- Dandelion

Who’s that flying through the sky? It’s etymology corner! Episode 4 of Wonderful!

So Rachel stole the bit of “Dandelion” that I was excited about. I’ll dig deeper into the “dens leonis” (that lion tooth idea has been around since medieval Latin) but first, some other names for the weed!

It used to be a thing that however many blows it took to clear a dandelion of its seeds was what time it was. This “tell-time” or “schoolboy’s clock” obviously made no sense. Eating dandelions has a diuretic effect, so a Middle English name for it was “piss-a-bed”. That’s cute and makes much more sense.

“*Dent” as a word for teeth comes all the way from Proto Indo European stuff. It’s the noun form of “*ed” which means and is the root of “eat”. From there it gave us words like dentist, trident, orthodontist and tusk.

“Leon” for lions came to Greek from some unknown language (maybe something Semitic but nobody is sure) but it gave us “chameleon” which is a ground lion because of the cresty thing that old timey folks thought looked like a mane. Leopards were thought to be half lion and half panther (pard was an old term for such) and an old term for giraffes (and the name of the only living species of them) is camelopard because Greek zoologists had no idea what they were doing. I guess giraffes are sorta like big camels with the skins of leopards? If you ever want to see some fascinating culture clashes, look into the introduction of giraffes in places like China, Italy and France.

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One thought on “Etymology Corner- Dandelion

  1. Pingback: Etymology Corner- Amazon | Robin Garcia

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