A Small But Mighty Word

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning is SOLSTICE. When I got up the temp was -35 C, so you can believe we’ll rejoice in any upward trend. Even one or two minutes more daylight will be a welcome change.

And my word-of-the-day this morning was YOKE. A small but mighty word, if you’re the one that’s in the yoke. It all started with a comment…

I named one of the characters in my WIP novel Joel. He and his brother Layne are riding in the back seat of a club cab pickup* and, as teenage boys will do, Joel leans over and teases Layne. Layne gives him a shove in return. “Keep on your own side, Jokel.”

The nickname “Jokel” being Layne’s invention, a combo of Joke and Joel with a hint of “Peasant!” (yokel) thrown in. This word confused one poor critique-giver; he’d searched for it in several dictionaries and not found it.

His comment this morning, plus my curiosity about word etymology, led me from joke to yokel to yoke. Yoke is a well travelled word! From the Tower of Babel, across the steppes, the seas, plains and mountains of Europe, even into the Nordic countries.

The original meaning of YOKE was JOIN, as a team joined together. From the Indo-European jugom it entered Latin and became jugum – from whence jugular & subjugate are derived. The word appears in Sanskrit as jugam, in Czech as jho, in Finnish as juko. Ancient Germanic borrowed it from the Finns and it became jukam, which evolved into the German joch and the Dutch juk.

The original Indo-European compound form jug- and joug-, meant joined to (like conjugal.) This evolved into the Latin jungere from which we get our words join, junction, conjunctive, etc. The Sanskrit word for union became yogaunion with the universe – which we’ve adopted as written.

According to Lexico, a yokel is an unsophisticated person from a rural area; a country bumpkin. Origin uncertain. Since feudal serfs, farmers, were once bound to the land and landowner, it’s not hard to see that connection.

  • Some critiquers say I don’t need to say “club cab pickup”; I should just give the name of the truck and everyone will know. Clueless me, I Googled it. 😉 If you’re into makes and models of pickups, this was a 2008 GMC Sierra 1500 Extended cab– since this story took place circa 2010. If it turns out that Joel & Layne need their own doors, I’ll have to extend it again to a Crew Cab model. 🙂

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