Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Swim, goggles, suit from Lizzy11 and Friends

Dear Word Snoop, 

My friends and I were wondering where did the words swim, goggles and suit come from?


Your Friend.

Dear Lizzy 11,

Thx to YOU for your question. I'm sorry to have taken so long to reply - I have been spying on words in New Zealand - and there was plenty to spy on, I can tell you!

But I won't tell you now - I'd better try to answer your question first...

Hmm. Swim. Well, swim is a word from Old English (also known as Anglo-Saxon), which is the kind of English people spoke in England over 1000 years ago. To swim meant to move around in the water. Of course I don't suppose back in England in those days they did much of the sort of swimming we do in sunny old Australia. Now when we say "can you swim?" we mean a bit more than, "can you move around in the water?" (!)

So, onto goggles.  Goggle is actually a Middle English word - Middle English is what people spoke in England about 700 years ago. To goggle meant to roll your eyes around. Then a few hundred years later when glasses for eyes were invented, they were called "goggles". (Maybe in the hope people would stop rolling their eyes around.) Now of  course we mainly use the word for swimming goggles.

And finally, suit. Suit is a word that came into English after the French people conquered England about 1000 years ago (um, 1066 to be exact.) Lots of French words started to be used then, as there were all these French-speaking people about the place. It meant something that belongs in a set, and soon came to mean clothes that matched, as in a suit.

Wow. Your questions involved a lot of history!  Keep 'em coming, won't you??

yours historically,

The Word Spy

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