Thursday, June 11, 2009

Possibly a fan, from Terence

Dear Word Spy (aka Word Snoop),

I'm thinking of becoming your fan. But first I'd like to know, why are fans called fans? Like, are they supposed to go around with fans and keep the air cool or something?

from Terence, a possible fan

Dear Terence,

That sounds nice! (keeping the air cool I mean.) But actually, the word fan here has nothing to do with fans that keep you cool on a hot day. That sort of cooling fan comes from an old Latin word for wind - "vannus".

The other kind of fan comes from somewhere else altogether. People who study words think it is most probably short for the word "fanatic", which means someone who's really obsessed with something.

Or it could also be short for the word "fancier", which means someone who likes a particular thing or has a special hobby. You know, like "pigeon fancier" means someone who likes pigeons.

As Bert from Sesame Street (you know, Ernie's pal) once said: "Greetings, pigeon fanciers of America and guest pigeons!"

Looking forward to maybe adding you to my fan base,

your respectful friend, The Word Spy

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