I’ve found that many people that I come across in the course of my life really don’t care about the origins or meanings of words, but I find them really fascinating. Every day, every person across the world is using a system of language that has a history that, in most cases, spans across millenia. The way we communicate as humans helps not just to differentiate us from the rest of the animal kingdom, but also helps differentiate the myriad cultures around the world. Each word has a deep history that channels the combined knowledge of your culture. Words are fascinating!
Let’s talk about the word ‘ski’
The etymology (that’s the study of words, for the uninitiated) for the word ‘ski’ is really fascinating. Although the activity is much, much older than Old Norse, the modern word ‘ski’ comes from Old Norse, from the word ‘skíð’, which means “stick of wood.” In Norwegian today, skíð is used in a bunch of different ways. For example, you would use it if you were describing the action for splitting wood to build a fire, or describing a fence made of wooden rails.
What I find really fascinating about this is that the word actually describes the tool used to do the activity, instead of the activity itself. When a person says they’re skiing, they’re not actually describing what they’re doing – they’re just telling you what tools they’re using. Here we are walking around with a general understanding of the word ‘ski,’ but once you dig down, it means something entirely different than what we think! Fascinating!