There is a game that I used to play when I got bored in the library. It could take hours in the days when we only had dictionaries and encyclopaedias. Today, it does not take that long thanks to the internet, but it is still a fun intellectual game to play. It’s called ‘Making Connections”. Here’s how you play it.
First, you pick a word in the language of your choice. I used English because that is my area of specialization. Then you look for its definition and explanation in dictionaries and encyclopaedias, or books. Then look for a closely linked word and make more connections. You will be surprised to where the connections can lead you. If you want to see a livelier version of this game, watch the documentary series called “Connections”.
Here is a run on one such game. I began with the word KING.
Going far back to Old English, we find that the Old English word for ‘king’ is ‘Cyning’. In Proto-Germanic it is ‘kuningaz’, Old Dutch it is ‘Koning’, Old Norse is was ‘Konungr’, in Danish it is ‘Konge’, and in Old Saxon and Old High German ‘Kuning’. No, that is not related to the Malay word for Yellow, although, who knows, it might.
A ‘king’ is married to a ‘queen’. And the Old English word for ‘queen’ is ‘Cyninge’ or ‘gúðcwén’ for warrior queen. There were also other words which are ‘cuen’ or ‘cwen’. The word in Also in Proto-Germanic it is ‘Kwoeniz’, in Old Saxon it was ‘quan’ which also meant wife. Similarly, in Old Norse it was ‘kvae’ and in Gothic (Not-so-old Germanic) it is ‘quens’.
The most popular queen in English legends is probably Queen Guinevere the wife of King Arthur Pendragon the name is actually a Latinised version of the ‘Cwen’ but it could also have been related to the Welsh phrase ‘Gwenhwyvar’ which literally means ‘white cheeks’. The word ‘white’ is said to be related to wheat because wheat was probably the whitest things they had back then (they did not have detergent).
The Old English for wheat was hwæte. There were also similar words in the related languages mentioned above. The word ‘hwæte’ literally means ‘That which is white’.
The Welsh word for wheat is ‘qwenith’ and for white it is ‘gwenn’. Hence you get the name ‘Gwyneth’ which in Welsh actually also means ‘happiness’ and the other variations of the name are Gweneth, and Winnie, and Gwendolyn who, in Arthurian legends, was Merlin’s wife. Jumping forward in time, we have Gwyneth Paltrow played Pepper Potts wife of Tony Stark who is Iron man: a man wearing a metal suit thus bringing up back to the men in metal like in the legends of King Arthur. However, unlike Guinevere, Pepper Potts later wears an Iron Man suit mark 42 an uses the code name ‘Rescue’.