Monday, February 4, 2013

Once in a Blue Moon

Being a lover of etymology, I am always wondering about the origin of words, phrases, and expressions. I have a complete shelf on my bookshelf upstairs just full of word origin books.

My former 7th grade students at the American School of the Hague will tell you that I forced them into the world of etymology (some thought they would study BUGS) by assigning a word origin based research paper as their primary writing assignment.

I can still see and hear the anguish of a mother letting me know that asking her son to research the beginnings of "cocktail" was an impossible task. Her words: "I can't find anything about the origin of the word my son chose." Needless to say, within 10 minutes her son found at least six sources of origin in the sixty etymology reference books on our classroom bookshelf.

What a blast you would have had if you had "Googled" cocktail, you are thinking. The Internet does not contain more origins than these books do, but I will use my iPad to research my post title "Once in a Blue Moon."

And just as I expected, there are only about two origins or theories of origin, but they are disguised in myriads (Greek for 10,000!) of unnecessary information. I wanted the phrase origin referring to the second full moon in a month that occurs just once every 2.7 years. In other words, "once in a blue moon" means rarely. My 7th graders would have been Googling for ages to find that simple origin!

I had a "once in a blue moon" experience today. A former student from here in Louisana sent me an email message from Vienna, Austria. What a joy to hear from a young man enjoying his university experience with lots of traveling! (And he has a far better blog than his old English teacher!)

Chapeau, Monsieur Le Blue.

No comments: