Friday, May 11, 2012


It struck me this morning that yesterday had been a weird day, the news causing me frenzies in which I started to imagine that dogs might learn to talk and, to calm myself, I turned to the contemplation of camels’ humps. I zapped the dog-post this morning; it didn’t go far enough, and the weirdness had passed. But then that word caught my attention; I had never looked it up before. It comes from Germanic roots and, turns out, has a wonderfully pertinent meaning when applied to stuff that’s coming down, as it were.

The word’s root meaning is “that which comes,” hence “fate” or “destiny.” It survives in modern German as wird, a word that simply means shall or will, as in “It shall happen” or “That will surely come about.” In Germanic mythology, the three fates are named Future, Present, and Past, their names found in the Edda. Urd, as the Norwegians spell it, is the first, and the Future means Fate. And the weird sisters, as we know them in English, get their name from Urd. The word has taken on the sense of deformity and ugliness not because the sisters were ugly (see inset, for instance, from a poster advertising a women’s magazine (link)) but because the future tends to be that way. And it was, yesterday, as it morphed into the present.

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