TNQDE: I Want to Live My Life

As a preview for my topic tomorrow, I give you…

“diet”

Hands up–how many of you think of diet primarily as a horrible, twisted thing that many people subject themselves to in fits and spurts to lower the scary number on the scale? Yeah, me too. The primary definition, however, is “The usual food and drink of a person or animal” (AHCD, s.v. “diet”). Not the “unusual food and drink of a person who really wants to lose weight.” The usual food.

It makes sense when you dive into the etymology. Skipping back through Middle English diete and Old French and Latin (diaeta = “way of living”), we get to plunge into the language the Romans stole all their really interesting words from: Greek. Their diaita, equivalent to the Latin derivative, is a back-formation of the middle voice of the verb diaitan, meaning “to treat.” Assuming you don’t want a lecture on the fascinating convolutions connotation goes through when it pops into the middle voice, the verb form and sense “diet” derives from is diaitasthai, meaning “to live one’s life.”

Yes, that’s right. A diet is all about living life. More on exactly what I think of that idea tomorrow.

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