Etymology

I find words fascinating. I am by no means a linguist, but I have always enjoyed learning new words and understanding how they came to be. Of particular interest are words that once were associated with a particular meaning and have evolved over time to become slang for something inflammatory.

This actually came up the other night at knitting as I was contemplating the border for my shawl. See I was looking at the stitch pattern, and I was sure I recognized it, but I didn’t want to say what I thought it was. See if you can guess why?

Traditional faggot stitches consist of one row of increases and decreases that’s repeated each row for the pattern; this Garter Stitch Faggot adds a row of knitting to bring more texture to the knitting.

Um yeah. I bet you didn’t have any trouble with that one. Curious what it looks like?  The knitting photos don’t show it so clearly, but I found a sewing one that does:

Anyway, at home last night I was relating this experience to Wes.  I was telling him how I don’t understand how words that mean one thing get appropriated to become totally inappropriate. He then told me what faggot originally meant. I went and looked it up this morning and guess what I found?

faggot or esp  ( US ) fagot 1  (ˈfæɡət) [Click for IPA pronunciation guide]
n
1. a bundle of sticks or twigs, esp when bound together and used as fuel
2. a bundle of iron bars, esp a box formed by four pieces of wrought iron and filled with scrap to be forged into wrought iron
3. a ball of chopped meat, usually pork liver, bound with herbs and bread and eaten fried
4. a bundle of anything
vb
5. to collect into a bundle or bundles
6. needlework  to do faggoting on (a garment, piece of cloth, etc)
[C14: from Old French, perhaps from Greek phakelos  bundle]

So what words that are you uncomfortable using, even when you are using them in the most literal defined sense?

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