Friday, September 16, 2011

Booze Imbued the Bibber

The linguistic secret in this title is that all of the words in it, neglecting the article only, have to do with moisture and derive from the concept of drinking, although by different routes. The bibber, usually rendered as the winebibber, derives from the Latin bibere, to drink. Imbue means (Webster’s) to tinge or to dye deeply and to cause to become penetrated. The Latin here is imbuere—but that word came from imbibere, thus to drink or to soak in. In our enlightened times, with every step farther removed from the humble handicrafts where people did the soaking and the dying by hand, the word has come to have a quite different and abstract meaning—as this quote illustrates, from the highest authority, as it were:
Nevertheless, in order to imbue civilization with sound principles and enliven it with the spirit of the gospel, it is not enough to be illumined with the gift of faith and enkindled with the desire of forwarding a good cause. [Pope John XXIII, Pacem in Terris]
But let’s descend to the lowest low, booze. That word derives from the Middle Dutch verb busen, thus to drink heavily. The word appears to have achieved the status of a noun by the early eighteenth century. The powers that be (I mean in heaven, now) do have a sense of humor. Etymologists believe that the name of a Philadelphia distiller, called E.G. Booze, had something to do with the word’s spread. I myself even like that e.g.

This discussion with a hat tip to my Muse, Brigitte, who looked up from the paper the other day and wondered about the origin of imbue. Curiosity imbues her, you see.

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