verde – 3

From Latin viridis ‘green’ the Romans created viridiarium, which was ‘a place planted with trees and plants, a pleasure garden.’ The word evolved to Old Provençal vergier, which passed into Spanish as vergel ‘an orchard.’ (Changes from r to l and l to r are common in many languages.)

The verdant color of a plant’s new growth explains the fact that Spanish verdugo means ‘a shoot, sprout, branch.’ Unfortunately, such pliable branches provided punishers and torturers with a way to beat their victims, so verdugo added the sense ‘torturer’ and then also ‘executioner,’ given that the same person often served in both capacities. As with many nouns that describe occupations, like English Baker, Fisher, and Miller, Spanish Verdugo came to be a family name too. Most English speakers would find it strange to attend a social function and be introduced to Mr. and Mrs. Executioner, but English family names include the similarly unlikely Slaughter. That only goes to show how language is ever green (but not an evergreen) when it comes to creativity.

© 2010 Steven Schwartzman


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If you encounter an unfamiliar technical term in any of these postings, check the Glossary in the bar across the top of the page.
©2011–2016 Steven Schwartzman
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