Festal Musings

Word of the Day challenge: FESTIVE
Your Daily Word prompt: URGE

Greetings from the snow-white Canadian prairie.

I’m not feeling in a very festive mood today. My main urge upon waking was to get outside in the fresh air so I could breathe properly again. I’ve a head cold and there’s nothing like frigid air to clear the sinuses.

We have an abundance of it this morning, too, with the thermometer reading -25 C. So as soon as our cats were fed — my first priority, they insist — I put on my coat and out I went, to stand on the deck and let my sinuses drain. I’ll probably make quite a few trips outside today to unclog and appreciate this pure country air.

We were festive last night, enjoying a delicious meal at the Villa Christmas Supper, put on annually for the staff, residents, and whoever of the residents’ children can come. We had quite a nice gathering and visit after the meal.

As I read the Word of the Day challenge, the oddest thought crossed my mind: are the words FESTIVE and INFEST related? I pictured of a bunch of beetles gathering to feast together on some tasty organic matter. An in-fest, kind of like a love-in.

I followed the urge to check this out. According to Merriam-Webster, the root word of festive is, FEST, a variation of feast. However, the two words have angled away from each other over the years and a fest now means “a gathering, event, or show having a specified focus,” rather than a meal. Fest came into English via the German FEST, a celebration, originating with the Latin FESTUM.

So are the beetles festive as they gather on the plants? Probably. However, M-W tells us that INFEST originates with the Latin infestare, from infestus, which means hostile. Infest is defined as “to spread or swarm in or over in a troublesome manner.”

Usually when people or things infest, they’re eating you out of house and home, but this is apparently beside the point. A scholar would have to go back to ancient Rome to ferret out whether the two words were ever connected — but who cares? I’m just thankful the two meanings parted company so long ago and relatives will gather to feast with us, rather than infesting the table.

So much for my meandering in the byways of the English language. If you are gathering in a festive manner this Christmas, I urge you to enjoy the good times, cheerful company, and wish you safe travelling.

7 thoughts on “Festal Musings

      1. Me, too! Chasing down roots of words intrigues me. But M-W needs to get their definitions together. Here’s what I learned when I looked up ESTIVAL:
        Festival” also comes from Latin, but it has a different and unrelated root. It derives from festivus, a term that means festive or merry. “Festivus” is also the ancestor of festive and festivity as well as the much rarer festivous (which also means “festive”) and infestive, meaning “not merry, mirthless.”


      2. I stumbled upon a Victotian etymology dictionary. I could sit and read it all day! In fact, I used it as inspiration for a story I posted on blog back in 2014: The Roots of Rookeri. Great fun.

        Liked by 1 person

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