Friends and followers, welcome one and all to a brand new Fun Etymology!
Today’s word is one of my favourite things in the world: “book”.
Books are the closest thing we humans have to actual magic, as Carl Sagan once said. We have found a way to encode our thoughts into shapes we can draw and thereby preserve them for millennia.
Think about it: when you read Plato or Confucius or Caesar, you’re listening to the thoughts of someone who’s been dead for thousands of years, exactly as he expressed them. If that’s not sorcery I don’t know what is.
The word “book” comes from Old English “boc”, itself from Proto-Germanic *bokiz, meaning “beech” (from which the word “beech” also comes, predictably). This refers to the ancient custom amongst Germanic peoples of carving runes on the bark of beech trees, particularly suited to writing due to their white colour.
This is not unique of Germanic. The Latin word “librum”, from which come Italian “libro” and French “livre”, amongst others, itself originally meant “inner bark of a tree”.
So thank a tree on your way to the park today, for they give us not only the oxygen we breathe, but the means of preserving our thought and our wisdom through the centuries.