Yesterday (8 Feb 2012) I was having a long Skype call with a friend, when he noticed a book I had just had delivered on the table beside me. It was “The Etymologicon” by Mark Forsyth. My friend asked what it was about, and although I hadn’t actually read much of it, I explained that the book was an amusing take on the origins of words, illustrating how words were linked and how, often, the links spanned many languages and many centuries of etymological evolution. My friend asked for an example. I said I’d read him a section out loud at random and so I opened the book roughly in the middle. The section happened to be on page 80 and was headed “Ciao Slave Driver”. I read him the explanation of the Italian salutation “Ciao” which intriguingly was derived from the phrase “Sono vostro schiavo” which means “I am your slave”. Schiavo itself was derived from Slav, since the Slavonic people were deemed to be the original slaves. Over time, in demotic Italian the sono vostro was dropped and the schiavo morphed into the modern word “Ciao”, which is in common use today throughout Italy and beyond. Other greetings or good byes were mentioned, including Toodle Pip and my friend asked what the derivation of that phrase was – as it happened, I couldn’t see any explanation in the book for Toodle Pip’s origin. After reading the piece, I decided to break for a cup of tea. So I went to the kitchen, leaving the Skype call open, meaning that I could still hear what was happening in my friend’s living room. Whilst I was making the tea, I could just hear the sound of a television programme, so I surmised that my friend had switched his TV on. When I brought the cup of tea back in to my lounge, I could now hear more clearly what was being said. As I sat down, I heard a female voice saying “it was originally sono vostro schiavo”. My friend was laughing and exclaimed “get this!” as the programme he had turned on was the long running word based game show, Countdown, and each day, one of the presenters does a short piece on word origins. Today, the presenter Susie Dent, was telling us the origins of “Ciao” and other greetings, which we’d actually been through ourselves not 5 minutes earlier! Helpfully and for the sake of completeness, Susie then went on to explain that Toodle Pip was in fact a corruption of toot toot pip pip, in emulation of a car horn, so we were not just amused at the co-incidence, our outstanding query was also discharged.
Date submitted:Thu, 09 Feb 2012 17:08:56 +0000Coincidence ID:5970