June 18, 2014

Case File #014.06.18: FROWN

When the verb frown first entered the English lexicon at the end of the fourteenth century, it meant something like “to snort in disdain” or “to turn one's nose up at.” That's because it came from the Old French frognier, which meant “to snort or turn one's nose up at” and itself evolved from a now lost Gaulish word that, according to many etymologists and linguists, was a cognate of the Welsh noun ffroen, meaning “nose" or “nostril.” Now some may snort at this, but it took more than a century for frown to lose its association with the nose and develop the contemporary verb senses of “to express displeasure or concentration by contracting the brow or turning down the corners of the mouth” and “to regard with displeasure, disapproval, or distaste.” And it wasn't until the late sixteenth century that the word acquired the noun senses of “a facial expression characterized by a furrowing of one's brow or a turning down of the corners of one's mouth” and “a general expression of displeasure.”

©2014 Michael R. Gates

No comments:

Post a Comment