(Originally posted as a guest moderator at America's Wild Read)
If you’re looking for a cheap thrill, I recommend a little etymology. A little research and suddenly a word you have been taking for granted all your life becomes a window on history and the human condition.
Take for example, the name of the language in which this is written. English derives from the name of a Germanic tribe that migrated from the Jutland peninsula across the North Sea to Britain some time around the fifth century A.D.These Angles received their name from the Romans, who derived it from the Latin word ancus, or hook. Why? Most references will tell you it is because Jutland hooks into the North Sea. But since this shape is really only apparent from high in space (and even then it
takes some imagination), an alternate explanation from historian Timothy Rawson seems much more likely to me: the Angles got their name because they caught their fish with a line and hook, instead of a spear or net like most of their contemporaries. And if that etymology is correct, we are thinking and communicating in a fishing language.
In the same vein, consider the rainbow trout. Taken for granted the world over, these fish are in fact layered with human history and all of its contradictions. They are a repository, a symbol of the different ways we have related to the natural world over the last 150 years and more. And to me they are a reminder of the need for humility as we consider where we should go from here.
My stint as moderator comes to an end this week. Thanks to all who enriched the discussion through the online comments. And thanks also to those of you who simply took the time to read the blog and/or the book.
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