Sunday, 18 December 2011

wands, magic and walls

When I was discussing concepts with some students this afternoon, I asked them what the word wand made them think of.

I was surprised to find most of these twenty-first century children initially had the same image as I did, a short piece of wood with a star on the top and lots of glitter - a magic wand that a picture-book fairy might carry. I had expected that the juggernaut Harry Potter franchise might have overlaid the older image with that of a short weapons-grade wand.

Wondering about the original concept of a wand, I looked the word up and found the Online Etymology Dictionary gives the older meaning as a bending, flexible stick.

When I was studying German, back in antiquity (my youth), I used to wonder why words in German sometimes looked exactly like English words but had seemingly totally different meanings. Nowadays I'm often pleasantly surprised to find out such parallels are the result of linguistic history, not coincidences.

The German word for a wall, Wand, is the same word as the little stick Harry Potter carries, because long ago walls in early Germany were made of whippy sticks plaited together.

In looking around the Net to research this post I came across a delightful new meaning - lavender wands.

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