Friday, December 15, 2006

Hump This: Fanatics

Hump This is a (quasi-)weekly Friday feature where you, the WordHumper reader, choose which lucky word gets humped back to the stoneage (or at least to Proto-Indo-Europa). Today's word comes from MK in New York who writes:
You are a word humping fanatic. You should hump that at some point, since fan and fanatic come from the same root but one means crazy (sometimes celebrity killing) person.
You're right, MK. I am both a word humping fan and fanatic. Fanatic made its English language debut in the first half of the 16th c. to mean an insane person. It comes from the Latin fanum, meaning temple, and is a reference to the sometimes over-the-top orgiastic rites practiced in pagan Rome. Its sense of extreme zealousness first appeared in the mid-17th c.

Fan is originally of American origin, late 19th c., and was used in reference to baseball. It's obviously an abbreviated form of fanatic although it's possible it was influenced by an early 19th c. term Fancy, which the Online Etymology Dictionary describes as "a collective term for followers of a certain hobby or sport (especially boxing)." Fancy or not, it's immediately apparent that since its humble baseball beginnings fan was never meant to achieve the connotative gravitas of fanatic.

Interestingly, fanatic's Latin root fanum is also related to the Latin festus which gives us our words feast and festival.

If you have a word you'd like humped please email it, along with your location, to wordhumper.

Fan and Fanatic [Online Etymology Dictionary]
Fanatic [AHD]
Fanatic [OED]
Fan [OED]

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:: posted by David, 8:53 AM


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