Learning new words and being able to find the word that means exactly what the story needs can mean the difference between a mediocre story and a brilliant one.
On Wednesdays we will identify an unusual word, provide its definition, and discuss its application or its impact.
I’m always on the lookout for archaic or Old English words that I can incorporate into my fantasy writing. Nothing jars me from a story faster than reading a fantasy or medieval-era novel where the character drops an “OK” in response to a question – hello, “OK” is a nineteenth century American construction.
I recently came across “meed,” an Old English word for a reward, recompense, or wage, which reminded me of a funny multicultural crisscrossing involving a similar word.
A little background: Holi is a Hindu festival, celebrating (depending on whom you ask) fertility, the return of spring, equality, and the religious victory of good over evil. People throw colored powder on each other and light bonfires.
A friend from Suriname was recounting childhood celebrations of Holi, which (I was surprised to learn) is a major event there because of its large Indian-origin minority. She then told me the best part of the holiday, beyond the food and fun, was the “baksheesh,” and she proceeded to explain, to my growing amusement, what baksheesh was.
She was baffled when I started laughing. Baksheesh is a word I learned growing up with multilingual Indian parents. Originally a Persian word, baksheesh is commonly used in India to refer to bribes, tips, presents, and gratuities, just the way it’s used in Suriname to refer to gifts given at Holi (usually so you don’t get splashed with color).
Baksheesh has made it into English, and apparently into Dutch, which is the language of Suriname, pretty much unchanged from the Persian.
So meed or baksheesh, here are two words from very different places which both mean “reward.” Can you think of any other words for “reward” that originated someplace far away?