Category Archives: Etymology

Darn you, King James!

Attention Citizens of Earth!

The passage from the King James Bible that says “Suffer the little children to come unto me” — often unfortunately abbreviated to “Suffer the little children” — does NOT mean that little children do, will, should, or must suffer!

Way back in the day, “suffer” meant “allow” — in current parlance, one might equate it to “put up with.”

So the gospel writer reports Jesus saying, presumably to their parents, “Allow the little children to come over here.” That’s all!

The truly sad part? I most recently saw this in not one but TWO different volumes of a mystery series I otherwise enjoyed very much so I won’t tell you the author’s name. But it’s set in 1560, and the character who says it is an educated man who would certainly have known what “suffer” meant in that context. Fie, for shame, churl!

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Filed under DfW Holds Forth!, Etymology, Fancy Words, The History of Language

World Wide Words Newsletter: 13 Apr 2013

Michael Quinlon on the word “Scrumptious”:

We commonly use this to refer to some especially appetising item of food or a very attractive person. Roald Dahl, who wrote the script for the film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, felt it was appropriate for the character Truly Scrumptious, which must be in contention with Pussy Galore for the worst-ever* invented female movie name.

Critics have not been kind to scrumptious. In 1921, H L Mencken described it as an “artificial word”, lumping it with sockdolager, hunky-dory, spondulix, slumgullion and similar creations of American linguistic ingenuity. In his Dictionary of Modern English Usage in 1926, H W Fowler classed it as a “facetious formation”.

Many dictionaries just say “origin unknown” or “origin uncertain”, not wanting to engage in complicated but ultimately unsatisfying discussions about etymology. This writer has no such qualms.

via World Wide Words Newsletter: 13 Apr 2013.

*or BEST-ever, depending on your perspective.

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