Monday, December 7, 2015

Word of the Week - Ice


Since it's getting rather frosty outside here in the Appalachians, I thought today we'd take a look at ice...or rather, at when some of its idioms came into use. =)

Ice itself is from Old English, from Proto-Germanic is. There are cognates for it in quite a few other languages that also derive from that old-old-old German tongue. Our modern spelling began to appear in the 1400s.

Having been part of our language for so long, it's no surprise that eventually it began to be used in idioms. The oldest of these is to break the ice. It has been meaning "to make the first attempt" since 1580! I had no idea it was so old. But it comes about as a metaphorical allusion to boats breaking up the ice in a river.

The 1800s brought us quite a few uses. The term ice age was coined in 1832. Ice fishing began to be spoken about in 1869 (which makes me wonder...was the activity itself first practiced then or did people use to call it something different?). Thin ice, in the figurative sense, first appeared in writing in 1884. On ice--as in, kept out of the way until needed--is from 1890.

And finally, the use you may have spotted in The Lost Heiress. Ice as a slang for diamonds is from 1906. (I totally would have thought it a product of the 1920s before I looked it up for use in my book. Shows what I know, LOL.)

Stay warm, everybody!

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