Thursday, 17 February 2011

Electrons and Morons

Bill uses Facebook far more than I do; my email and this blog keep me well occupied.  Bill went through a period when he reported to me what Rick - the same Rick that comments here - had posted and how he had replied.  It was a source of considerable amusement for Bill and several others, I gather.

Rick would pose a question each day, daft things like

If corn oil is made from corn, what is baby oil made from?

One of the first questions he provided was

If electricity comes from electrons, does morality come from morons?

Now, I know it's just a game, but being interested in etymology, this bothered me a bit, so I got out my Dad's old (1983) book and looked it up.

If I've made my way correctly through the labyrinth of abbreviations, electron comes from the Greek adjective ḗlektros which was an adjective meaning 'gleaming, shining, brilliant' and reaches back to denoting the sun (the 'shiner').  Electricity does come from the word electron, of course.

Moron (whence moronic; oxymoron; sophomore, whence sophomoric) is from the Greek mōros meaning stupid, akin to Sanskrit mūra.

Whereas, moral, comes from the Latin mōres, which is used learnedly for ethical folkways and is the plural of the Latin word, mōs, from the oblique stem (got that?) mōr:  a way of carrying oneself, hence especially of behaving; a custom as determined by usage, not by law.   The Latin adjective is mōralis, whence via Old French-French, moral.   From mōralis, you also get your Late Latin derivative mōrālitās, also from the not exactly straight source of mōrālitāt, and from there you get your English morality.

Right, I feel much better now, don't you?


Boywilli said...

I understood every word of that, however, the whole thing is incomprehensible; but then some of Bryson's etymological stuff is that way as well so it must be good

Rick Stone said...

Well, I feel plum honored that my lighthearted musings on Facebook generated a blog entry from you. Bill normally responds to these, sometimes idiotic questions, but his British humor is often lost on some of my friends and family on this side of the pond. ;-> Though we did have fun with it I'm afraid I've run out of questions.

Anonymous said...

I have a whole book on this topic!