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Take Our Word For It NOE No. 6  Melanie Crowley
 Jun 11, 2003 20:34 PDT 

Take Our Word For It NOE No. 6

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It's a NOE (Newsletter-Only Etymology) week. We hoped to have
fundraiser details for you, but we'll give them to you next week.

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**This Week's NOE**

Reminder: we are now publishing TOWFI bi-weekly, so every other week we
will send you a NOE to tide you over to the next issue of TOWFI. This
is a NOE week.

It's the season for fresh basil from our garden. Where did the word
"basil" come from? English got it from Old French "basile", which came
from Latin "basilisca". This is the Roman version of Greek "basilikon"
meaning "royal". The claim is that the herb was used in royal potions,
but that may be mostly conjecture. Anyhow, the Romans apparently got
the plant name slightly confused with "basiliscus" ("basilisk" in
English), thinking that the plant could be used to counteract the venom
of the basilisk. And those two words, basil and
basilisk, are, in fact, related. The name of the mythical beast,
"basilisk", means, in Greek, "little king" (the Greek form is
basiliskos). However, the Greeks also used "basiliskos" to refer to a
bird known as the golden-crested wren, presumably because it looked like
it wore a gold crown. They also used the word to refer to a kind of
snake, though it is unclear why. Even so, it is the application to the
snake that led to the word being applied to the beast of legend.

"Basilica" is, of course, also related, referring originally to churches
that were built on the plan of a royal palace.

Basilisk dates from the 14th century in English, basil from the 15th,
and basilica from the 16th.


There has been a slight delay in the fundraiser; we'll give you the
details of it (and, we hope, start it) next week!

**Laughing Stock**

Send us your funny stuff. If your entry is used in TOWFI, you'll get a
$10 gift certificate to Amazon.com. Eventually.

**Next Issue**

We'll be back next week with a new issue of TOWFI and a NOE.

Until next time,
Take Our Word For It!
Melanie and Mike

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