Wednesday, September 19, 2007

An Interpretation of Plato's Cratylus

In light of our discussion today:

Phronesis (Vol. XLV, No. 4, November 2000) pp. 284-305.
Simon Keller

There was once a BBC radio show on which celebrity guests were challenged to produce
spontaneous etymologies of common English words. A guest on the show is asked to explain the origin of the word ‘gold’. “Ah yes”, she quickly replies, “this word has its origin in the venerable custom of giving gold watches as gifts to retiring employees. When a ceremony was held to honour a retiring worker, the manager of the company would present him or her with a timepiece made of the as-yet-unnamed substance. As the watch was passed over, the manager would whisper in the ear of the former employee, ‘Gee, you’re old’. As time passed, the ritualised phrase was shortened to, ‘Gee, old’, and then, ‘Gold’. Eventually, people began referring to ‘gold watches’, and so ‘gold’ became the name of the material from which the watches were made”.

(Direct link to this full article in .pdf form)