Tag Archives: Jade

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, learnĂ©d 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, learnĂ©d 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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