A Journal of the Irrepressible

Archive for February, 2002

A Tapestry of Metaphor

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Essay by Brian Charles Clark

In this essay I speculate on a possible relationship between “word,” “writing,” “weaving,” and “work.” While the essay is speculative in its etymology, I think it does show a definite intertwining of the histories of metaphors that underpin the changes in meaning we see from Indo-European, Greek, and Latin, into English. Because of limited space, my investigation into the histories of these words is of need cursory. My intent here is to entertain and provoke the reader’s own imaginative speculations, not to create a definitive history or an airtight case.

A *wer is a “high raised spot” (American Heritage Dictionary, wer1). I can imagine a letter or word carved in stone or wood being called a “high raised spot.” *Wer (ibid., wer3) also means “to turn, bend.” From this root we get our Germanic “worth,” because value is a turning toward fair exchange, and Latinate “verse,” the fruits of the poet’s turns of phrase. In olden times, a traveler was worth his board based on the value of his conversation. And everybody knows the value of the devil’s silver tongue, whose conversation can pivot on a dime, and suddenly turn to your soul’s worth. Read the rest of this entry »

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Written by Brian

February 14th, 2002 at 12:34 am

Posted in essay, linguistics, poetry