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I've just returned from a six-week trip to India and Europe, an Indo-European tour, if you will. While I recover from the jetlag, I've arranged an Indo-European tour for you, and this one comes with no jetlag. This week we'll see five words that have come to us from Indo-European roots. About 6000 years ago, people in that region spoke a language that was the ancestor of most languages now spoken around the world -- languages as varied as Albanian, English, French, German, Greek, Norwegian, and Sanskrit.

There is no written record of the language but linguists now call this reconstructed language Proto-Indo-European. Let's look at a few words that trace their origin to this prehistoric source.

facetiae (fuh-SEE-shee-ee) noun

Witty or humorous remarks or writings.

[From Latin facetia (jest). Ultimately from the Indo-European root dhe- (to set or put) which is also the source of do, deed, factory, fashion, face, rectify, defeat, sacrifice, satisfy, Sanskrit sandhi (literally, joining), Urdu purdah (literally, veil or curtain), and Russian duma (council).]

-Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)

"Guy is a writer of facetiae. He asks the tough questions. Why do they make so much of Cactus Jack Garner's remark about the Vice Presidency not being worth a pitcher of warm spit when 'there really shouldn't be anything disgusting about the thought of drinking spit, one's own at least, because spit is what is in our mouths all the time'?" Christopher Buckley; White House Spouse Tells All; The New York Times; Jun 10, 1990.


The world owes all its onward impulses to men ill at ease. The happy man inevitably confines himself within ancient limits. -Nathaniel Hawthorne, novelist and short-story writer (1804-1864)

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