This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Monday, 26 October 2015

Spot the Frippet: kite.

Which came first, the kite:

 or the kite?

Or was it the kite?

Obese teenagers boy, 136 kg 300 lbs, overweight fat belly.jpg

Well, it was the kite, of course, though they're all old words. The Scots and Geordie word meaning the belly (it's more commonly spelled kyte) appeared mysteriously in the 1500s. It might have been from the same root as the word kidney, and it's the newest of the words. It's the easiest to spot, too, but do please choose some private place to inspect your rippling torso, because whether it's rippling with muscles or rolls of fat (if you're a Geordie then a kite is a fat belly) I doubt very much anyone else wants to see it.

The kites that fly on strings are very old - perhaps, in China, they go back to the fifth century BC. They've been used for forecasting the weather, for frightening an enemy, for signalling, as aerials, and to pull vehicles. Some places hold kite duels, and in Vietnam, Bali and Malaysia they're used to make music by attaching wind-powered instruments to them. In many places they're associated with Easter and the risen Christ.

I'm sometimes lucky enough to see the bird sort of kite from my desk, either skimming fast between me and the wood, or else hanging easily on the air. I only ever see the Red Kite, here, but there are many species in the world. They're divided into the big soaring ones of the genus Milvus and the small hovering ones of the genus Elanus. They're birds of prey, and they tend to have forked tails.

It was after seeing eleven Red Kites flying together a few weeks ago that I discovered that there's no proper collective noun for them.

But surely, it's obvious what it must be: the collective word for kites must surely be a string.

Spot the Frippet: kite. The Old English form of this word was cȳta. It's related to the Middle High German küze, owl and the Old Norse kȳta, to quarrel.

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