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Grammar vs. Glamour

You may have heard that the words “grammar” and “glamour”¹ share the same etymology², and that’s true. Based on the current meanings of the two words, and the images they bring to mind, the connection probably seems pretty far-fetched. After all, there’s no glossy magazine of photoshopped people entitled Grammar.

Well…a google search did bring this up. (Source site credits it to Mignon Fogarty).

But back in the day, words and books were super cool. I swear it’s true. Owning a book meant you were probably super rich, and therefore better than other people, and maybe even a wizard. Seriously. Because what else are they going to put in books, besides gnarly magic spells for turning stuff into gold (for buying more books) and summoning dragons to devour your neighbors?

So the humble word grammatica (Latin, from Greek ‘of letters’) became associated with books in general and then (by the kind of people who, with no access to actual books, came to the obvious conclusion that they were full of sweet magic) with a wizarding education. It entered English, like so many other words, via Old French.

And from there? Well, to get to the word grammar as used in English today, it was just a matter of keeping the ‘education’ part and dropping the magic. To get to glamour, on the other hand, the magic stayed, but peoples’ idea of what magic is got changed around. Sadly, it no longer has connotations of the transmutation of base metals or reanimating the dead, and instead seems primarily focused on people trying to look photoshopped in real life.

Grammar may be a tiring, boring, non-magical task for the modern student (whose books are still super expensive but confer no status whatsoever), but What The French?! can help. And if you, too, manage to make French grammar seem effortless and cool, people might just start to see you as a super attractive warlock. It could happen.

 

¹(also spelled “glamor” sometimes in the US, but this is one of those extremely rare occasions for me where I feel like it looks dumb without the u)

²(that is, word origin. Not to be confused with entomology, the study of insects)

³(the American Heritage Dictionary online will give you etymologies of words. Pretty “cool”, if you’re into that sort of thing. http://ahdictionary.com/)

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