Ted (merovingian) wrote,

A lesson in etymology

The word hippy originally came from the Latin stloppitarii means "soldiers armed only with the popping noise made from slapping inflated cheeks." The stloppitarii were considered an elite military unit (mostly out of embarrassed pity) and were fielded extensively by Emperors Nero and Claudius.

After the fall of the Roman Empire, the term was not much used until the 8th century, when the term was rediscovered by extremely bored Belgian monks. The monks used the term as often as possible, and the meaning expanded to include just about anything. In fact, they used the word so often it stopped sounding like a word to them, and the word was forbidden from use and exiled to southern England.

The word stloppitarii traveled from England to Wales, where it was transformed by witches into the world pwfddu meaning "a pear that has been dipped in honey and then chosen for a minor role in government." It took the word over four hundred years to find out what had happened, but once it did, it was bitter and ashamed. As an act of retaliation, the word hijacked a 13th century Italian trading ship and sailed away to India, where it made advantageous alliances with local nobility and became the Official Mascot Word of a powerful Prince.

Many found it amusing that a word about a pear becoming a minor government official became, in itself, a government official. Others questioned how a word (much less a word about a pear) managed to hijack a trading ship at all. Eventually, the disagreement between these groups became so intense that it led to the tiny but vicious Pwfddu Wars. The war saw many great heroes, who were themselves called Pwfddu Champions.

Scholars wishing to honor those heroes in histories were dismayed to find that the word could not be written down with local orthography, and so the word (as well as the heroism and the war itself) was never committed to history and was forgotten within a few generations.

But the spiders remembered it, and began whispering it to each other smugly as proof of their superior abilities of oral history. Sadly, their oral history was not actually very good and the word's pronunciation changed radically, and so when Herb Caen asked the spiders for a word for all those crazy kids, in the 60s, the spiders suggested pwfddu but mispronounced it as hippo. Herb Caen was too polite to ignore their suggestion entirely, but changed it into something that sounded similar but was not already in use.

And now its use is sealed forever from change by the wonders of the Internet.

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