Tuesday, August 26, 2008

To boot, both explained and not

Often, I use some cliche and wonder where it comes from. Earlier, I wrote this comment: ". . .misery doesn't love company. It needs company and plenty of conversation to boot."

I then thought (and wrote), what the heck does "to boot" mean?! Ah, what did I do without Google?! Well, I did have a fairly large library of reference books (and still do). But there was never enough. I often wished for a 24 hour/7 day a week library that I could walk to in under five minutes. Now, I have it, and I don't even have to budge from my sofa.

Here's the explanation of "to boot", courtesy of the Phrase Finder:

To boot

Moreover; in addition to.


This term has nothing to do with footwear. The 'boot' is thought to be a derivative of the earlier 'bat' meaning 'good or useful'. This is also the root of the word 'better'.

Forms of 'to boot' in Old English date from around 1000AD. Robert Manning of Brunne included a version of it in Langtoft's Chronicle, 1330:

"A hundreth knyghtes mo... and four hundreth to bote, squieres of gode aray."

I don't think, however, that I'll be reading Langtoft's Chronicle any time soon. Not that this has to do with anything. . .

I wondered if "booting up a computer" and other forms of "boot" have anything to do with this expression, but I would doubt it. But we shall see. I will commence my search for the answer now. In fact, I'll time it. It's 10:06pm right now.

Okay, it's 10:09pm. Here's what happened in the last three minutes:

I found an answer on this site: Take Our Word For It
Since it's an online magazine, I didn't want to copy it. I also found the explanation, while certainly plausible, not explained all that well, or in a scholarly enough fashion to suit my sensibilities (oh, my fine sensibilities!) and so, I checked another page. What did I encounter? A site that told me "You are not currently authorized to access this article." Okay. How do I get authorized? This website looks good! It's called Jstor: Trusted Articles for Scholarship. And yes, one has to pay for it. I did not look into how much this would cost. It looked expensive. Really. It has fancy schmancy fonts and everything.

So, if you're curious, don't take my word for, check out the link above. But don't try Jstor, or if you do, please tell me all about it.

Image note: This is a hint.
Cover of Oct. 1941 Astounding Science Fiction magazine (I need to include this to be in compliance with copyright law, though I'm not sure I'm doing it properly).

Addendum: This morning it occurred to me that there was yet another usage of the word "boot" that I didn't know the reasons for, namely, why the back enclosure space of a car is a trunk in the United States and the boot in Britain. Surprisingly, this one took me far longer than three minutes to find an answer to. For you who are curious (and those who are not, but somehow wound up here, asking yourself, "Why am I reading this?"), here it is:

At the back of horse-drawn stagecoaches were big boxes that held passengers' luggage. They were called boots. This is believed to come from boite, the French word for box. So, why wasn't it just called the box? After all, it was a box. One could postulate that some folks called it the boite and some called it the box and over time, it came out as boot. So, why do Americans called it the trunk? I didn't look this up, but trunk is indeed another word for a large box that holds things.

The amount of uses for the word "boot" is quite large. Check out dictionary.com and see for yourself.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow, Take Our Word For It is a pretty cool site, thanks. Naturally, I bookmarked it in the same folder, you know the one:)