From The Latin Intro Ducere
Do you know where the word "introduce" comes from? It comes from the Latin, Intro Ducere, meaning "to guide into". As such, when you introduce you guide something into the issue being discussed, usually some new information, such as the etymology of a relevant word in that context. This happens in some works, when the etymology of words is used as a way to introduce bits of exposition, an explanation to a situation, a point or even a "Reason You Suck" Speech. This trope shows that the speaker is cultured, smart and - usually - in control, as most people in a pickle don't really worry about etymology. Usually starts with "Do you know where the word 'X' comes from?" - Note that the little etymology lesson must turn out to have something to do with the matter at hand. The examples may also be etymological fallacies ("logos" is greek for "word", which is where "logic" comes from, so logic is just toying with words) or just plain nonsensical pseudo-etymology (Did you know Jesus actually was a zoophile? He was a carpenter, and "carpenter" is "carp" "enter").
Examples:Anime and Manga
- Watanuki does this to a woman in XXX Holic, explaining that she doesn't love Doumeki, only admires him. Admiration, from Latin, Ad - On and Mirare - being amazed. At least, that's how it goes in Portuguese. He then proceeds to explain the Japanese etymology, and proceeds to use said little etymology lesson to make his point.
- In Busou Renkin Doctor Butterfly says that the word "Carnival" comes from "cannibalism" (It Makes Sense in Context). Nobuhiro Watsuki said in the liner notes of the tankoubon that this was a goof on his part (it actually comes from abstention from meat for Lent) and said to call it Butterfly's mistake In-Universe.
- From the New World in its anime adaptation, episode 25, Saki and Satoru are discussing about the bakenezumi's origin, erroneously interpreting a similarity between naked mole-rat's scientific name (Heterocephalus glaber) and human being's scientific name (homo sapiens). While Greek element "hetero" (meaning different or other) in Heterocephalus is the opposite of Greek element "homos" (meaning same) this element is not the one used in "homo sapiens", which came from Latin element "homo" (meaning human).
- The father in My Big Fat Greek Wedding frequently claims that he can show the Greek root of any word. He makes it up as he goes.
- There have been far too many nationalist linguists who really did try to show their language as the root of all others, or at least of some more prestigious language, and been taken seriously (at least by their own governments, which all should've known how silly they would look).
- Several times in Despicable Me, new villain Vector explains the origin of his name, neatly combining this trope with Don't Explain the Joke:
Vector: I go by Vector. It's a mathematical term, represented by an arrow with both direction and magnitude. Vector! That's me, because I commit crimes with both direction and magnitude. Oh yeah!
- Discworld series:
- Lords and Ladies:
Elves are wonderful. They provoke wonder. Elves are marvelous. They cause marvels. Elves are fantastic. They create fantasies. Elves are glamorous. They project glamour. Elves are enchanting. They weave enchantment. Elves are terrific. They beget terror. The thing about words is that meanings can twist just like a snake, and if you want to find snakes, look behind words that have changed their meaning. No one ever said elves are nice. Elves are bad.
- In Men at Arms, Carrot points out that, as a policeman — from polis, city — he is a man of the city. Later, when Carrot brings this up to the city's ruler, Lord Vetinari, Vetinari responds by pointing out that "politician" has the same root.
- In Night Watch, Carrot also informs Vimes that the word "copper" does not come from the fact that the Watch badge is made of copper, but from coppere, which means "to capture".
- In Interesting Times, we get a dodgy etymology of "teleport": "It comes from tele, meaning 'I see,' and 'porte,' meaning 'to go,' the whole meaning 'I see it's gone.' *
- Soul Music has a semi-accurate etymology of "wizard". Susan reflects that the word derives from "wise", which is true - but the accompanying footnote claims "From the Old wys-ars: lit. one who, at the bottom, is very smart.
- Lords and Ladies:
- Dave Barry has a tendency to do this in some of his works. In Dave Barry's Guide to Guys, he explains the following:
- Guys contain stuff called "testosterone" - from the Latin "testo," (meaning "stuff") and "sterone" ("that guys contain").
- In the Merry Gentry series, the narrator's monologue often explains the Gaelic origins of certain words, and connects their modern, metaphorical meaning to the ancient, literal meaning used by the fey in the story. For instance, "slogan" is a corruption of "slaugh-gairn," so called because Celtic war cries were a kind of incantation, calling on the faerie slaugh to help them. She also describes an actress as "glamorous" as a way of pointing out that her faerie power and her fame are synergistic.
- Dinotopia: Lee Crabb points out that Dinotopia directly translates not to "dinosaur utopia", but "terrible place".
- Caustic Critic George Jean Nathan invented two derisive joke etymologies for "vaudeville":
French: "Va" (go) + "de" (to) + "vil" (something low).German: "Wo" (where) + "der" (is the) + "Will" (sense)?
- In Max Shulman's Barefoot Boy with Cheek, the author's note explains that "Minnesota" is a meaningless combination of the only two Indian words he knows: "'Minne' meaning a place where four spavined men and a minor woman ate underdone pemmican, and 'sota' meaning the day the bison got away because the hunter's wife blunted his arrows in a fit of pique."
- Dave Barry Slept Here notes that "ultimatum" comes "from the Latin, meaning 'a kind of thing that a person issues.'"
- The Devil's Dictionary jokes that "tedium" derives "from a very obvious source—the first words of the ancient Latin hymn Te Deum Laudamus. In this apparently natural derivation there is something that saddens."
- Bones: The Victim of the Week was a guy who seemed to really be Santa Claus. This gives them another opportunity to bicker Like an Old Married Couple. Booth's remark isn't quite From The Latin Intro Ducere, but Brennan's correction is.
Brennan: Kriss Kringle. From the North Pole. Lives above a toy store - This is further evidence that our victim, is indeed, the mythic figure known as Santa Claus.
Booth: Mythic. Coming from the Latin, "Myth", meaning "doesn't actually exist."
Brennan: No. From the Greek, "Mythos", meaning "word."
- CSI had one when Grissom investigated the death of a man who had Down's syndrome. After catching the murderer, Grissom calls back to an earlier conversation where the murderer called the victim a "retard" (Grissom corrected him, of course) and informs him that "retard" means "to hinder", so the killer's life "just got retarded".
- In Firefly, River comments on Mal's name, saying "Mal. Bad. In the Latin."
- The liner notes to the P.D.Q. Bach recording Oedipus Tex & Other Choral Calamities make the parenthetical claim that the name "Alamo" comes from the French, meaning "in the style of one of The Three Stooges."
- This exchange between Max and Tycho in Poker Night at the Inventory:
Tycho: Do you know the etymology of the word "flop"?
Tycho: In the early 1600s, it was when the King would take a shit on a peasant. I fold.
- From Kid Icarus: Uprising:
Viridi: I wish I had an angel to do my bidding. It's like having an intern.
Pit: I'm not an intern. I'm a messenger of the gods!
Viridi: Poor Pit. Don't you know that the definition of angel is "errand spirit"?
Pit: That's a lie. Right, Lady Palutena? I'm not your personal assistant.
Palutena: ...I could use a coffee.
Pit: Sure thing. Cream and two sugars, right?
- In the first Mameshiba video, Green Pea, the trivia is that the French word for dandelion, "pissenlit", means "urinate in bed".
- XKCD strip 1319, "Automation", which demonstrates the futility of automating software tasks, claims that "automating" comes from the roots "auto-" (self) and "mating" (screwing).
- In Archer Krieger is discussing replacing Ray's paralyzed legs with mechanical ones. Ray refers to them as "robotic legs", but Krieger says that it's not robotics, it's bionics, "From the Greek, for like—'kick-ass'!" Ray asks him if there's a Greek word for "insane".
- Teachers tend to do this to make a subject stick.
- A joke: Do you know where the word "Politics" comes from? "Poly-", meaning "Many" and "-tics" meaning "Bloodsucking parasites."
- Another joke: "Ex" means "former" and a spurt is a drip under pressure. So an "expert" is a "former drip under pressure".
- Several of Dave Barry's columns include completely made up joke etymologies:
"Perspective" is derived from two ancient Greek words: "persp," meaning "something bad that happens to somebody else," and "ective," meaning "ideally somebody like Donald Trump."
The very word "insect" is a combination of two ancient Greek words: "in," meaning "a," and "sect," meaning "repulsive little creature."
The hypothesis—which comes from the Greek words "hypot," meaning "word," and "hesis," meaning "that I am looking up in the dictionary right now"...
- Jack Handey:
"Maybe in order to understand mankind, we have to look at the word itself. Basically, it's made up of two separate words — 'mank' and 'ind.' What do these words mean? It's a mystery, and that's why so is mankind."
- Often used by preachers, especially when explaining complicated words in The Bible. (Usually justified since the New Testament was originally written in Greek, after all.)
- Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science, gave us the following case of etymological fallacy:
- "Divide the name Adam into two syllables, and it reads, a dam, or obstruction... it stands for obstruction, error, even the supposed separation of man from God."