Geez, the relentless wind this week, right? It was so strong and consistent, it brought up ash from the 1912 Katmai eruption, canceling flights and delaying my weekend excursion to Anchorage last weekend. It even gave the air in places around the island a nice, weird yellow hue.
But it’s all good. It’s nothing we’re not already used to in Kodiak.
Wind is an Old English word that comes from the Proto-Germanic windaz, which serves as the root for wind in most other northern Europeans languages.
The Proto-Indo-European root is we, meaning to blow. We can see this root in the Latin ventus, Lithuanian vejas and the Old Irish feth, all which mean wind or tempest.
When the word got its Old English spelling, it was actually pronounced as if it rhymed with kind and mind.
For several centuries, this was the common pronunciation.
The 18th century brought a vowel shift: In English, attaching a -y to a noun to create an adjective could change the base word’s long vowel sound to a short vowel sound. English doesn’t have too many indigenous words that have more than one long vowel sound, so when a y (pronounced as a long e) is added, speakers shortened the original vowel sound.
So wind (pronounced like whined) turned into wind (rhymed with sinned).
Another example was blood and bloody. Blood was originally pronounced as rhyming with rude. And once the -y was added to indicate the adjective form, it changed to bloody. And eventually it changed the base word pronunciation to blood (rhymed with mud).
In late Old English, wind added an association with breath, and in the early 14th century, we see the phrase long-winded being used to describe someone who talks a lot.
And in 1830, people begin to get a second wind, originally a term for hunters who get a second burst of energy and vigor late after a long day of stalking prey.
And the phrase “which way the wind blows,” inferring a current state of affairs, is dated to the early 15th century.
We are watching the change in the way the wind blows in a couple other countries this week.
For instance, Australia just completed a referendum on whether to legalize gay marriage this week, voting in favor of such legislation by a pretty wide margin.
Referendum is a legal term originating Central Europe in 1847. The Swiss are typically credited with inventing the term and process, which puts a question that the government is debating to the voters.
They borrowed it from the Latin word referendum, which literally means something that has been brought back. The base word, refer, is comprised of a prefix, re-, meaning back, and another base word, ferre, meaning to carry.
In the 15th century, some European people, including the English, used the word refer in formal situations: to commit to some authority for a decision.
They added the suffix -dum to make a fancy Latin-sounding noun out of the verb refer.
It’s been a few years since Alaska has had a major referendum. The most recent ones I can think of are the 2014 votes on marijuana, minimum wage, oil tax cuts and Bristol Bay mining.
Decades ago, we used the referendum to tell the Legislature what we thought of the state income tax and, a few different times, moving the state capital to Anchorage.
With the high-profile debate over the potential use of the PFD to bridge the state budget gap, a perennial controversy now, I think it might be time for another advisory referendum. We’ve had time to research and think about it, so maybe we vote and tell the Legislature, loudly, what we think they should do.
Another option is a coup, which we seem to be watching take place in Zimbabwe. Though I would advise against a military takeover of the state government. That would get messy. And it’s kind of un-democratic.
The word coup, a French word that joined English in the early 15th century, means blow, as in a strike or hit. It comes from the Latin colaphus, which literally means to hit someone in the ear, from the Greek kolaphus, meaning punch.
It came to mean a short, decisive political act in the 1640s French phrase coup d’etat, which was shortened to coup in 1852.
As Heraclitus said, “The only thing that is constant is change.” The winds may blow differently each day, but as we know from living here, there will always be wind.