Wednesday, May 19, 2010


There are severe disadvantages living in a country where the language is not your mother tongue. However there are also advantages. I am constantly learning things about English from my exposure to Italian.

One example today: the newspapers are talking about a coprifuoco (cover fire) in the battle in Bangkok. At first I couldn't imagine what that meant. Then I guessed the meaning without being able to recall the English word (this happens too frequently these days). Finally I realized that coprifuoco was curfew, with an instant insight into the origin of English word.

From the Online Etymological Dictionary:
curfew early 14c., from Anglo-Fr. coeverfu (late 13c.), from O.Fr. covrefeu, lit. "cover fire," from couvre, imper. of couvrir "to cover" + feu "fire." The medieval practice of ringing a bell at fixed time in the evening as an order to bank the hearths and prepare for sleep. The original purpose was to prevent conflagrations from untended fires. The modern extended sense of "periodic restriction of movement" had evolved by 1800s.



Post a Comment

<< Home