WordWatch roundup: negus, insurgent, collywobbles, Plantagenet, and snoop
This series investigates changes in lookups for words and their meanings across OxfordDictionaries.com. The graphs are based on website data collected over a four-week period, and the accompanying commentary explores how news and other current events have influenced these word trends and sudden peaks in interest.
insurgent / divergent
It will probably come as a surprise to no one that insurgent and divergent were among the words that saw a spike in searches over the past week and a half. With the release of Insurgent on 20 March, the second film in the Divergent Series (the first being the 2014 film Divergent), there has been a steady stream of interest in both terms.
The word insurgent can appear as either a noun or an adjective, referring to ‘a person fighting against a government or invading force; a rebel or revolutionary’ or something or someone that is ‘rising in active revolt’, respectively. The word comes from the present participle of the Latin verb insurgĕre, which means ‘to rise up’. On the other hand, divergent is only an adjective, referring to things that are ‘proceeding in different directions from each other or from a common point’, or ‘tending to be different or develop in different directions’.
Another term that has seen a spike in searches is Plantagenet, as in Richard Plantagenet, better known as Richard III, who was reinterred this week in Leicester Cathedral. Richard III, whose remains were discovered beneath a car park in Leicester just over two years ago, is the much-maligned English king who was famously subject of Shakespeare’s damning fictional history.
If the name Plantagenet sounds distinctly French to English ears, that’s because it is. The family name Plantagenet dates back to Richard’s French ancestors, who came from the French province of Anjou. In the form Plantagenist, the name comes from the post-classical Latin planta genista (‘sprig of broom’), which is in reference to Geoffrey of Plantagenet having reportedly worn such an adornment on his helmet. The Plantagenets held the English throne from 1154 to 1485, ending with the death of Richard III.
In a recent interview in Total Film with Emma Watson, the actress discussed her upcoming role as Belle in the live-action film remake of Beauty and the Beast, the journalist characterized Watson’s nervousness at playing the role as ‘the collywobbles’. Typically a humorous word referring to ‘stomach pain or queasiness’, collywobbles also refers figuratively to ‘intense anxiety or nervousness, especially with stomach queasiness’. The word comes from the fanciful formation of colic + wobble, and in its figurative usage can be equated to the more common butterflies in the stomach, belly. Referring to ‘a fluttering and nauseated sensation felt in the stomach when one is nervous’, the phrase is often clipped to just ‘the butterflies’.
So why is Watson nervous? Because she has to sing! Having never sung in a film role, Watson admitted that the idea is ‘terrifying’ – hence bring out the collywobbles and butterflies.
Speaking of butterflies, we now move on to discuss a word that appears in rapper Kendrick Lamar’s 2015 album To Pimp a Butterfly, which was released a week and a half ago to widespread critical acclaim. The word in question is negus, which refers to ‘a ruler, or the supreme ruler, of Ethiopia’. The word comes from the Amharic word n’gus ‘king’; Amharic is the Semitic language descended from Ge’ez that is the official language of Ethiopia.
Lamar introduces the word in the song ‘i’ as a homophone for niggas to further reclaim use by black people of the contentious term.
Well this is my explanation straight from Ethiopia
N-E-G-U-S definition: royalty; King royalty – wait listen
N-E-G-U-S description: Black emperor, King, ruler, now let me finish
The history books overlooked the word and hide it
At least part of the credit for the spike in searches for snoop must go to the recent outpouring of media concerning musician Snoop Dogg. The rapper has a cameo as himself in the Season 1 finale of the TV show Empire, appeared at the soon-to-be televised roast of Justin Bieber, and recently defended Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson, which has earned him some serious play online. Contributing to the interest in the word, however, are the recent revelations from India that Delhi police may have been ‘snooping’ on Rahul Gandhi of the politically prominent Gandhi family. However, this isn’t snoop’s first time in the spotlight in Indian media; last year, accusations of inappropriate government surveillance of an individual led to the so-called ‘Snoopgate’ controversy.
The word snoop comes from the Dutch snoepen, which means ‘to eat on the sly’. It wasn’t long, though, before the word shifted, and began to refer to ‘investigating or looking around furtively in an attempt to find out something, especially information about someone’s private affairs’.
Photo credit: Christian Bertrand / Shutterstock.com