Ever wonder why lawyers use two words such as “have and hold” or “cease and desist” when one word would do? Or why there is a “b” in debt and a “p” in receipt? Those and other strange quirks of English are explained in The Story of English in 100 Words. From roe (a deer) in the 5th century to Twittersphere in the 21st author David Crystal describes the constantly evolving English language.
Interesting details from the book:
- Captain John Smith made the first stab at spelling the Powhatan word Rahaughcum. Today spelled raccoon.
- The source for the word robot: a Czech word meaning “forced labor.”
- Blending old words to make new words has been going on for hundreds of years: Tragicomedy in the 16th century, spork in the early 20th and chillax in the 21st.
And why do lawyers use two words? Partly because lawyers were often paid by the word but also because the language of law books changed during the middle ages. From Latin to French then from French to English lawyers used words from each language to cover every possibility. For example goods, an Old English word, and chattels, an Old French word, both describe someone’s possessions hence the term “goods and chattels” to designate property–an expression still in use today.