Ety’s Friends Get Involved

Ety’s pal – who to be fair isn’t usually all that interested in etymology and so this is a bit of a shock – over the weekend offered an interesting piece of etymological knowledge:

Diatribe means a ‘wearing down’. It actually started out life as a rather positive thing, meaning a lengthy, learnéd discussion. That was back when it was the Greek diatribe, which came to us via 16th century Latin as diatriba. It only gained a negative connotation in early 19th century French.

As the roots are in the Greek though, you can see that dia- is a prefix meaning ‘away’ and -tribein means ‘to wear’ or ‘rub’. So diatribe was originally intended to mean ‘to wear away’ time (in lengthy, learnéd discussions like on this blog).

But you have to admit there’s a certain sense of homecoming when a word which started off meaning ‘to wear down’, was used in a positive sense, then turned into a negative word which had the effect of wearing people down. Brilliant.

Well done Jade for knowing all that.


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