This blog is for everyone who uses words.

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

Monday, 19 September 2016

Spot the Frippet: something primeval.

Something primeval (or primaeval) originated so long ago that it comes, or seems to come, from the very origins of the world.

Humans being of such recent manufacture (only about a quarter of a million years) and even shorter memory, primeval is however used to mean more or less anything older than that.

So, mountains can be called primeval, even ones like Everest that are so young they're actually still growing. (If you want to see really old rocks then you must go to the Acasta River in Canada, where the gneiss is thought by some to be four billion years old. Mind you, even that is half a billion years younger than the Earth itself, or, to put it another way, two thousand times longer than humans have existed).

A landscape without plants might be called primeval - well, unless it's all tarmac and skyscrapers it might, anyway.

Dinosaurs would probably count, too. I know they're not around much, but any reptile would probably count:

File:Cordylus niger - Black Girdled Lizard with millipede on its nose.JPG
photo of black girdled lizard with a millipede on its nose taken on Table Mountain by Abu Shawka

 as would some of the spikier birds, like herons:

File:Great Grey Heron.jpg
Great Blue Heron: photo by Scott Bauer

But, having said all that, the fun of a word like primeval lies in its invitation to sarcasm. So, if you know anyone with an three-year-old mobile phone...

Spot the Frippet: something primeval. What I really like about this word (all right, I admit it) is that although it means really really old, it comes from the Latin prīmaevus, which means youthful, from prīmus, first, plus aevum, age. 

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