Magic from PIE *magh- "to be able, to have power"

                Etymology from Greek {Etymologia} meaning "true sense" + {-logia} "study of, speaking of"


Image by Darrin Drda, commissioned for my thesis.

Image by Darrin Drda, commissioned for my thesis.

For as long as I can remember I have been fascinated with words. As a logophile (word lover) I make up words, look for words within words (did you know believe has the word “lie,” “be,” and “live” contained in it?), and make time for weekly Oxford English Dictionary fun.  

I feel something in words…while many people may just see letters or words, I see magic. English is not often thought of as a “sacred” language such as Sanskrit or Hebrew, it contains magic in its roots, despite the way we experience life

Philosopher Max Weber would consider most of us “disenchanted.” Meaning we don’t see the world as enchanted…or full of meaning or magic. For most of us we experience the world as a meaningless and made up of individual objects. English reflects this perception of the world as it contains the most nouns of any language. Native American Hopi language  has very few nouns and doesn’t have tenses…everything is in present. 

I’m interested in how we can re-enchant ourselves with life again, and I believe we can do it through language. We begin to notice our words are not just abstract ideas, but contain a consciousness and experience of the past very different from the one we speak now.

Etymologies offer this insight, or as philosopher Owen Barfield said, “to excavate the information buried in a word.”  Desire is not just "wanting something"  but is  to “await what the stars bring.” In the time this word came into usage many people believed the stars were our ancestors (which we know to be true to some extent). The way it is used now feels so different and yet the older meaning is still alive in what we say.

Many word have powerful etymologies that take us back in time to a different consciousness and experience of life. A debate in academia and linguistic communities centers around language as being one of the key evolutionary elements that reveals humans’ disconnection to the universe (coming from Latin univers meaning “the many folding into one”).  If it was indeed language that helped contribute to the feelings of isolation and loneliness so many of us face, perhaps words and language are also our way back into a sense of enchantment and connection.

To read more about my theory of re-enchantment read my thesis Stargazing: Re-enchantment through language or read an essay on my thesis on Culture Counter Mag here.

[Image by Darrin Drda]