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 "shit" originated as an acronym for Ship High In Transit? note )
Beware: it's very easy for careless people to lapse into Artistic License – Linguistics with etymologies. Just because a word was historically derived from an older word doesn't necessarily make that part of the word's meaning as it's used today. (When modern English speakers say we live in a "county", we probably don't mean "an area ruled by a count".)
- 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 Buso 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 ("carnival" is indeed cognate to Latin carnem, "meat", but the linkage actually comes from abstention from meat for Lent) and said to call it Butterfly's mistake In-Universe.
- From the New World:
- In episode 25 of its anime adaptation, Saki and Satoru are discussing 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 "homo" (meaning same), this element is not the one used in "homo sapiens", which came from the Latin element "homo" (meaning human).
- In Calvin and Hobbes, Hobbes claims "numerator" is Latin for "number eighter" while trying to help Calvin with a math problem.
- In Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, when Lex Luthor is introduced as a "philanthropist" as he's about to give a speech at a charity gala he's hosting, he begins his speech by pointing out that philanthropist is a greek word meaning a "a lover of humanity".
- 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!
- In Jurassic Park, Dr. Grant starts describing velociraptors, mentioning their birdlike qualities. He declares that "Even the word "raptor" means bird of prey!" That is true.... but only in English. The "raptor" in "velociraptor" is a latin word meaning "seizer or "thief"note and velociraptor was so named because the scientists describing it thought that they raided nests, stealing eggs and hatchlings. Velociraptors are very birdlike, and since Jurassic Park introduced to the public the idea that dinosaurs are the ancestors of birds scientists have determined the velociraptors probably even had feathers, making them even more birdlike, but their naming is just a coincidence.
- In Malcolm X, Malcolm uses this to explain his feelings towards Elijah Muhammad, who had saved his life (in narration lifted directly from his Autobiography).
My adoration of Mr. Muhammad grew, in the sense of the Latin root word adorare. It means much more than our "adoration" or "adore." It means that my worship of him was so awesome that he was the first man whom I had ever feared — not fear such as of a man with a gun, but the fear such as one has of the power of the sun.
- The father in My Big Fat Greek Wedding frequently claims that he can show the Greek root of any word. He's actually making most of it up.
Toula's Friend: Alright, Mr. Portokalos: "kimono".
Gus: [thinks for a moment] "Kimono"... that come from the Greek word "χειμώνας" ("khimónas"), which means "winter". What do you wear in the winter? A robe! So, kimono, robe, there you go!note
- A running joke in The World's End has the replicants take exception to being called robots because "Robot comes from the Latin 'robotum' meaning 'slave' and we are not slaves." (They're partially correct; robot comes from the Slavic word robota, meaning forced labor or drudgery.)
- 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".
- Dilbert creator Scott Adams jokes in one of his business book parodies that the word "analysis" comes from the root word "anal", and the suffix "-ysis", meaning "to pull numbers from". Another time he claims in reference to Boyish Short Hair, that "convenient" comes from an Elbonian word meaning "looks exactly like a man, but inexplicably has breasts".
- 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 has a tendency to do this in some of his works.
- Several examples from his columns:
"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"...
- In the column "Say Uncle," he states that, as a senior at Pleasantville High School, his math teacher Mr. Solin attempted to instruct him in calculus, which derives "from the ancient Greek words calc, meaning 'the study of,' and ulus, meaning "something that only Mr. Solin could understand."
- 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").
- Dave Barry's Guide to Marriage and/or Sex claims that astrology must be "very scientific" because the word "comes from the Greek or possibly Latin words 'astro' and 'ology.'"
- Dave Barry Slept Here notes that "ultimatum" comes "from the Latin, meaning 'a kind of thing that a person issues.'"
- Dave Barry's Only Travel Guide You'll Ever Need contains an off-kilter list of Canadian provinces, including "Manitoba (literally, 'many tubas')."
- Several examples from his columns:
- The Devil's Dictionary makes a few jokes of this type:
- "Tedium" is alleged to derive "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."
- "Tadpole," as mentioned in the "Leviathan" entry, is implied to be derived from its Latin name, Thaddeus polandensis (Thaddeus of Poland).
- Dinotopia: Lee Crabb points out that "Dinotopia" may be a portmanteau of "dinosaur utopia", but its direct translation from the original Greek is "terrible place", reflecting his low opinion of the place (as a Genius Bonus, he's right, but the old meaning of "terrible" means something like "fearfully great" or "awe-inspiring" as opposed to the modern meaning of "really bad". This older meaning is an accurate description of Dinotopia while undermining Crabb's point).
- 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.
- In The Truth, Otto comments that another word for iconographer might be "photographer", based on the Latatian word "photos", which means "to prance about like a pillock ordering people around as if you own the place", although the rest of the conversation is based on it meaning "light" (Otto has invented "obscurography", where he takes pictures with darkness).
- Lords and Ladies:
- In Gulliver's Travels, Gulliver says that he "could never learn the true etymology" of the name of the floating island of Laputa. He rejects one derivation from "Lap, in the old obsolete language, signifies high; and untuh, a governor," and proposes his own hypothesis that "Laputa was quasi Lap outed; lap signifying properly the dancing of the sunbeams in the sea, and outed, a wing; which, however, I shall not obtrude, but submit to the judicious reader." Even more judicious is Swift's failure to suggest the obvious Spanish translation.
- I Am Mordred: The name "Mordred" actually comes from Latin for "moderate", not "courageous counselor".
- 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" (Battle Cry), 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.
- In The Water-Babies, Charles Kingsley provides this definition of "amphibious", which is of course wrong in absolutely every respect, presumably indicating his opinion of the hypothetical "Government pupil-teacher" he attributes it to:
Amphibious. Adjective, derived from two Greek words, amphi, a fish, and bios, a beast. An animal supposed by our ignorant ancestors to be compounded of a fish and a beast; which therefore, like the hippopotamus, can't live on the land, and dies in the water.
- 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."note
- 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." While technically this is true, in Mal Reynolds' case, "Mal" is short for "Malcolm", a Scottish name meaning "Follower of St. Columba."
- House offers one up in an episode of House while Cameron is doing a test:
Cameron: Idiopathic T-cell deficiency?
House: "Idiopathic", from the Latin, meaning we're idiots 'cause we can't figure out what's causing it.note
- Fletcher in Porridge averts it for humorous effect in this exchange with Warden Barrowclough:
Fletcher: If you want to do something for us, give us more freedom, better grub, conjugal visits.
Mr. Barrowclough: What?
Fletcher: Conjugals. From the Latin "conjugari", meaning "to have it away".
- The Punisher (2017): Frank's sidekick makes a point by claiming that the name of Cerberus, the canine guardian of the Greek underworld, comes from the Greek word for "spotted," meaning that the hellhound's original name was Spot. This is actually a real hypothesis of where the name comes from, but it is only one of several guesses, and there is no academic consensus on the name's origin.
- On The Unbelievable Truth, season 22, episode 4, Richard Osman discusses the Latin origins of place names, saying that London comes from "londo" meaning "Holy Christ" and "dono", meaning "is this pint of Guinness really five pound fifty?", Slough was called "Winsorium", which means "I'm afraid our nearest Waitrose is in Windsor" and the Latin name for Paris means "slough". The last one turns out to be true, as "Lutetia" is believed to come from a root meaning "swamp", which is also the meaning of the word "slough" (although this is not the origin of the place-name "Slough", which means "soil").
- 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?
- 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.
- In the first Mameshiba video, Green Pea, the trivia is that the French word for dandelion, "pissenlit", means "urinate in bed".
- 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".
- Before the principles of historical linguistics were well understood, people still wanted to know the origins of words, even if they had to just make shit up to get there. The tendency to come up with far-fetched derivations was eventually parodied in the Latin phrase lucus a non lucendo, meaning "we get the word lucus (a grove) from how well-lit (lucere) a grove isn't." Ironically, these were the times when the word "etymology" itself was coined from the Greek etymos "true, real," in other words the study of the true derivation of words.
- Teachers tend to do this to make a subject stick.
- 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."
- 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)?
- 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."
- "Adam" is actually derived from the Hebrew Adama (sorry, Galactica fans, emphasis on the last syllable) meaning "earth" or "soil" (because, you know, Adam was made from earth/soil...). There are a bunch of Hebrew puns and Just So Stories in the old testament that really don't work well in translation or without their cultural background.
- A totally serious conspiracy theory claimed that "lightning fall from heaven" (in reference to Luke 10:18, written as "I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven" in the King James Version) in Hebrew (as Jesus spoke) was baraq u bamah, i.e. Barack Obama, and this was a prophecy that Obama was The Antichrist - "I beheld Satan as Barack Obama". It's wrong on two counts: 1. Jesus spoke Aramaic, not Hebrew, and 2. even if he did speak Hebrew, the phrase they're claiming he would have said is complete gibberish.
- A creationist example is the claim that the ancient Chinese word for "flood" means "eight people in a boat" i.e. Noah and his family. The Chinese sign cited is actually the word "boat"; which combines the old sign for "dug-out canoe" [ancient China being a river society] with the sign for 'chyan'/ "lead" [metal] which sounds like 'chuan'/"boat". In fairness folk etymology is very popular in Chinese because it assigns meanings to Chinese signs which were often just chosen for their sound similarities.
- Comment sections are bad for this. Often terms like "Homo sapiens" will not be accepted by their programs because they contain the word "homo" which is taken as a slurnote .