As I waited in my car for the long red light to turn green at the intersection of US 183 and Spicewood Springs Rd. in Austin a few hours ago, I noticed a young couple standing by the side of the road and talking in an animated way. Both were coincidentally dressed in blue from the waist up, with the man facing mostly away from me; across his shoulders on the back of his T-shirt I read the word VENENO in large letters above the image of a skull.

Why he wanted to promote veneno I can’t say, but I can say that the Spanish word came from Latin venenum, which the old Lewis and Short’s Latin Dictionary says originally represented “any thing, esp. any liquid substance, that powerfully affects or changes the condition of the body.” That dictionary went on to note that in a bad sense the Latin noun came to mean ‘a potion that destroys life, poison,’ which is what Spanish veneno means. In another line of development, Vulgar Latin recast venenum as *venimen, the source of Old French venim; Middle English carried that over unchanged, but modern English has altered the spelling to venom. The corresponding adjective is venenoso/venomous.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Ed
    Jun 30, 2011 @ 08:54:57

    Interesting, could be gang related…:-)


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©2011–2016 Steven Schwartzman
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