2 thoughts on “Silence and slowness lead to reflection

  1. FWIW, the online etymology dictionary seems to disagree with the deconstruction of the word amusement.

    late 15c., “to divert the attention, beguile, delude,” from M.Fr. amuser “divert, cause to muse,”

  2. While I have no objection to the rest of Brian Phillips’ post, this sticks out like a sore thumb: “amusements” (literally, to not think). This seems to imply that “amuse” comes from such a combination as a negative prefix a- and muse “to ponder.” In fact, it comes from Old French a “towards” and muser “to sniff about, try to pick up a scent” (which in fact has the same root as muzzle, Latin musum). The original meaning in Old French was probably “to think about,” much the same as muser, but both verbs had taken on a wide range of negative meanings by the earliest period that the verb is recorded, many of which are reflected in earlier English.

    For example, it meant “to be diverted (esp. from the truth), misled, lose time in useless things” in Old French, and in English before the 17th-18th centuries (when the most common meaning was “to divert the attention from the facts at issue, beguile, delude, cheat, deceive”) it was used almost indistinguishably from muse and bemuse. (Meanings given in the OED for the earliest period include “to gaze in astonishment, to cause to stare, to confound, to distract, to engage the attention of.”) The modern meaning developed from the 17th-18th century meanings thus: “to divert attention from the facts at issue” > “to divert from serious business with trifles” > “to divert with anything light or cheerful” > “to entertain.” It’s sad, in fact, for if Phillips had looked in a few dictionaries he’d have found a much more pertinent and useful derivation for his purposes.

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