Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Origin of English Words-A series!

I have been motivated to write this series by the series of 'Famous Photographs' by Lalit in his blog “Writely Expressed” So I owe this idea of penning down a series of small articles entirely to him. Though I may not be as good as him, I would try my best to sustain the interest of the readers.
When we study phonetics we also study about the history of origin of words. Initially here in this series I would be writing on Eponymous words, i.e. how some “proper nouns” became “common nouns” and “adjectives”. How some people have managed to leave their impact and have influenced the society that their names have become an integral part of the language and are now lavishly and extensively spoken, written and heard of in day to day usage of the language without even our being aware of their origin!
So those who are interested to know about how some words have been coined in English, would now be able to satisfy their curiosity with this little endeavor of mine.

The first word which I am taking up is “boycott”

The dictionary meaning of the word boycott is “to abstain from or act together in abstaining from using, buying, or dealing with as an expression of protest or disfavor or as a means of coercion.” Many people take part in a boycott at some stage of their lives but almost no one knows how the word came into usage

It was in 1880’s that word “boycott" entered the English language at the time of Irish Land War.

There was an estate agent of Earl of Erne by name of Captain Charles Boycott in the 19th century. He was a former officer in English army. By nature he was harsh, insensitive and unfair even to genuine demands of the poor tenants as they were demanding the reduction in rent. He even went to the extent of evicting the tenants.

Charles Stewart Parnell, of Irish Land League encouraged the people to oppose Charles Boycott by non violent means. He made local businessmen and tenants to refuse to work for him. Boycott and his family had to remain without servants or farmhands and even there was no mail delivery or service in stores for him. He was farming at Loughmask in County Mayo and had to hire 50 Orangeman who were the volunteers from the north of the country for carrying out his harvest and that too under the protection of 900 soldiers. Ultimately he had to flee to England with his family. Or we may say Captain Charles Boycott was “Boycotted”.

Boycott became the “boycottee”, not the “boycotter”. He was ostracized, expulsed, or opposed because of his behaviour and actions.

Soon the word “boycott” became a byword and began to be used. It was used by the press for the first time.

The Times of London on November 20, 1880 said: "The people of New Pallas have resolved to 'boycott' them and refused to supply them with food or drink."

The Daily News on 13th December 1880 wrote: "Already the stoutest-hearted are yielding on every side to the dread of being 'Boycotted'.

Within few weeks, Le Figaro in Paris said: "The lively Irish have invented a new word; they are saying now to 'boycott' someone, meaning to ostracize him."

The word is now invariably used in French, German, Dutch, Spanish, Russian, Croatian, Polish, and Japanese!

1 comment:

  1. An inspiration is good enough only if it is converted into action. Well done Abha to have begun this very interesting series!

    I love knowing about origins of words :-) Waiting for more facts after knowing about Captain Charles Boycott!