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Word PLAY: Search for shelter in the shops.


EVERYONE has to shop. Whether we enjoy it or not is an entirely different matter,but the inescapable fact is that those everyday necessities need to be bought and the only place most of them can be found is in the shops.

And we probably think of a shop as being a well-lit establishment fully stocked with goods. So it will be something of a surprise to discover that the word is thought to be related to the Greek skepas,a cover or shield,and skotos, darkness.

The most likely explanation for this is that in ancient times nearly all trading places were outdoors in market places similar to those surviving today in market towns and villages. So the first indoor shops would have been relatively dark,dingy places with just a few candles for illumination. Other relatives of the same word,all involving shelter and possibly limited light,include shadow, shade and shed.

Of course in the modern world most shopping is done in the much larger establishments known as stores. The origin of this little word is quite surprising and,believe it or not,has biblical connections. English acquired the word from Old French estor -meaning provisions -which was derived from the Late Latin staurum store, a noun associated with the verb instaurare -``to provide necessities''.And this word was derived from the Greek stauros, which Biblical scholars would recognise as the word for the Cross.

The point is that originally the word simply meant any upright pole stuck in the ground (it was the Romans who changed its meaning to cross).Now a verb developed from this idea was stauroo, which meant to plunge a stake into the ground -if this operation is repeated often enough the result is a fenced- off area or palisade. These protected areas would have been the first places where people could buy their provisions in relative safety and are in all probability the original stores.

But it is not only the word store which has come down to us from the Late Latin staurum. The same root shows up again in the verb ``to restore'' which originally meant to replenish depleted materials. And a further derivative is the French word adopted into English and other languages, restaurant,originally an establishment where the tired and hungry could rest,have a meal and ``restore'' their energy levels.

And what about the super -and hyper -markets which have sprung up everywhere in the last 30 years? Interestingly super and hyper are just the Latin and Greek respectively for above and higher and used in this context to mean bigger.

The noun market is derived from the Latin merx -goods -which in turn is related to Mercury, the messenger of the Roman gods and the patron of merchants and thieves which, when you think about it, is not a particularly auspicious combination for us to think about as we set off to do the weekend shopping!


As many men will testify, shopping is linked to darkness
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:May 31, 2004
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