Brigid Daull Brockway is technically a writer

Brigid Daull Brockway is technically a writer

A blog about words, wordplay, and etymology, with slightly more than occasional political rants.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Monster Mish-Mash

Happy Halloween, all.  Seeing as it's the season for such things, I think it's time I told you what I know about the creatures that lurk under your bed.
Monster, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary, comes from the Latin monstrum, meaning monster or omen. This word, in turn, comes from the Latin verb monere, meaning to warn - malformed animals were considered a sign of a coming evil. 
 Zombie, I learned in a special on the History channel today, has its roots in Haitian Vodou. It referred to a person made into a mindless slave by a sorcerer. I read somewhere that some think it's possible that zombies have some basis fact, historically speaking. People have hypothesized that a combination of naturally occurring chemicals can be used to induce a zombie-like state in a human, but that idea seems more than a little far fetched when you dig into it.
I also learned on the History channel that the word ghoul comes from ancient Arabic folklore and refers to a demon who feeds on human flesh and robs graves. Looking for a little background from Wikipedia, I learned that ghouls rob graves, drink blood, steal coins, and eat the dead. I'm amused that "steal coins" is in that list. You can eat the dead and rob graves all you want, but when it comes to stealing coins, that's where I draw the line.
A hobgoblin can be a mischievous imp or a more serious monster. It's name, the Online Etymology Dictionary has just informed me, comes from hob meaning elf, which descends from Hobbe, another way of saying Rob, from the character Robin Goodfellow. As I think I've mentioned before, Puck is another name for Robin Goodfellow, and that is the name of my cat. Hence, my cat is essentially a hobgoblin. No wonder he has been so much trouble. 
A poltergeist gets its name from the German for noisy ghost. Poltergeists are the things, essentially, that go bump in the night. Poltergeists are generally impish and destructive, but generally harmless. In the movie Poltergeist, there are likely poltergeist living in the house, but they're not the ones doing all the scary stuff that makes one hide behind the sofa. In the movie, there are actually many types of ghosts in the home. A demon, not a poltergeist, called Beast is the one who steals the little girl. Eerily, four of the actors who appeared in the films died within a year of each film's premier, including, quite unexpectedly, the actresses who played the two daughters.
I've got to admit that this shot was an accident.
But it's pretty damn cool.

No comments: