Welcome to the website woven for wordaholics, logolepts, and verbivores. Carnivores eat meat; herbivores eat plants and vegetables; verbivores devour words. If you are heels over head (as well as head over heels) in love with words, tarry here a while to graze or, perhaps, feast on the English language. Ours is the only language in which you drive in a parkway and park in a driveway and your nose can run and your feet can smell.

etymology

Have you heard about the cross-eyed teacher? She couldn’t control her pupils.

 That pun plays on the two meanings of the word pupil. The first, “a student,” is borrowed from the Latin pupillus, “orphan, ward, minor.” The second meaning boasts a more enchanting etymology: In ancient Rome, the pupilla, “little doll,” was a diminutive of pupa, “girl.” When the Romans looked deep into each other’s eyes, they used the same word for the tiny, doll-like images of themselves reflected there. They called the part of the eye that the image could be seen in the pupil.

January is National Eye Month, a special time to promote healthy vision. Sight is the sense that people most fear losing, yet few of us know how to look after our eyes. Regular eye care helps you to live longer and dilate (“die late”).

The importance of eyes is seen in the many expressions and proverbs that speak of them: “The mind’s eye.” “In the twinkling of an eye.” “Eyes on the prize.” “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” “Love is blind.” “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” “Out of sight, out of mind.” “Here’s mud in your eye.” “The night has a thousand eyes.” “The eyes are bigger than the stomach.” And don’t give the stink eye or turn a blind eye to “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.”

Many an eye-catching, bright-eyed-and bushy-tailed word and phrase origin is a sight for sore eyes and hits the bull’s-eye:

  • An autopsy — Greek auto, “self” + opsia, “seeing” — is an examination of a dead person in which the coroner sees the cause of death with his or her own eyes.
  • Daisy was created in Old English from the poetical “day’s eye.” The flower is indeed a metaphor waiting to be born, with its sunburst center, its radiating white petals, and its sensitivity to the progress of the day, opening during the sunny hours and closing in the evening and extinguishing its brightness. The poet Geoffrey Chaucer (1340?-1400), without benefit of any linguistic manual, referred to the sun as “the day’s eye, or else the eye of day.”
  • Daylights is timeworn slang for the human eyes, dating back to at least the early 18th century. This makes a certain amount of sense since the eyes are the “source” of all the light we see. The practice of equating the eyes with lights or windows is even older; one Latin word for eye was lumen, meaning “light.” “To beat (or scare) the daylights out of” someone first meant to pummel or frighten him or her so badly that the person’s eyes, at least figuratively, popped out.
  • Iris was originally the Greek word for “rainbow” and the goddess of rainbows and messenger of the gods. Later her name was applied to the colorful flower and to the thin, circular structure in our eyes that gives them color.
  • The adjective supercilious, literally “with raised eyebrows,” comes from the Latin super, “above,” and cilium, “eyelid” or “eyebrow.” A supercilious person is one who shows arrogance by figuratively or literally raising an eyebrow.
  • A Yiddish proverb tells us that “the eyes are the windows of the soul.” Window started out as “the wind’s eye,” a feature of a home that would let out the eye-stinging smoke and odor of bodies and damp fur.

Finally, for those who like to mess around with letters, eye is the only palindromic part of the body; that is, it reads the same forward and backward. Eye, I and aye are all homophones, yet each starts with a different letter. And eye is one of an elite collection of body parts that are spelled with just three letters, the others being arm, ear, gum, hip, jaw, leg, lip, pit, rib, toe and (marginally) fat, gut, lid and a plural, ova. Then there’s lap, which disappears every time you stand up.

***

In the year of worldwide Women’s Marches, the #MeToo movement and the Silence Breakers, honored by Time magazine as Persons of the Year, Merriam-Webster’s has designated feminism as its 2017 Word of the Year. The dictionary company reported that feminism, “the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes,” was the most looked-up word in its online site, generating 70% more searches than in 2016.