Every Wednesday, I explore the linguistic origins of one word in different languages I speak.
“Dainty” and “delicate” are two more words I don’t think anyone would use to describe me, but if one were to look closely, my wrists could be accurately characterized as such. They are so thin that I can wrap my thumb and index finger around them and they overlap. So skinny are they that I eventually had to give up wearing men’s watches (always way cooler designs) because they were so heavy and so large that they wouldn’t even lay right, usually slipping off the side of my arm.
EN → wrist — the joint connecting the hand with the forearm. ORIGIN Old English probably from “writhe” [:make continual twisting, squirming movements or contortions of the body].
ES → muñeca — Parte del cuerpo humano en donde se articula la mano con el antebrazo. [Human body part where the hand connects to the forearm.] ORIGIN Pre-Roman moño [boundary marker] crossed with Basque muno [hill].
FR → poignet — partie du bras qui joint la main à l’avant-bras. [Part of the arm which connects the hand to the forearm.] ORIGIN Diminutive form of poing [fist].
Spanish note #1 — I was interested to learn that the body part is the primary definition and that the use as “doll” [toy shaped like a human] was the second. Still can’t figure out the connection, if any exists, between the two.
Spanish note #2 — The only language to specify “human” body. Not sure if this is more precise or just plain stupid. I imagine that all primates have wrists and that some marsupials (opossums and koalas come to mind) probably have them too, though I am no zoologist.
Spanish note #3 — I was given a doll exactly like the one pictured as a kid. I hated humanoid toys before then (something about their dead, dead eyes), but really hated this one because it somehow followed me home from Spain where it sat in a corner and basically haunted me until years later when I screwed up the courage to shove it in a bag and hide it in the basement. Creepy ass thing.
English note — This was actually pretty informative, as I’ve often wondered what the deal was with the odd spelling of “wrist” and what it actually meant. The “writhing” aspect is interesting and sounds like something out of a Greek myth that would explain why a particular god was double-jointed or something.
I think the win goes to French today because I like their word for fist and I like the violence implied in the definition, like, “My wrist only exists as an extension of my fist in your face!” And that line of thinking allows me to post this song by Florence + The Machine which, while being about domestic violence, is super fun.