In one of the groups I go to, we look at language, words their origins, and in particular Anglo-Saxon and other languages which have made English what it is. Within the family of Anglo-Saxon languages and dialects, we are most interested in the regional variation spoken here in the west country. This area is sometimes called Wessex, similar to Essex, Sussex and Middlesex… however, Wessex is a modern invention, created in the nineteenth century and made famous by Thomas Hardy. Most times we meet, our leader, our láréow, often gives us ‘homework’, words to look up and find out about.

This week’s word is cumbersome; I thought of the related word, encumber and wondered if there was a French origin, and yes, there seemed to be, but what about cucumber – is that related too?

The ‘some’ part of cumbersome is Old English, and that was attached to what indeed was an old French word, the cumber part of it, meaning to overthrow, destroy, or even in the extreme, to rape – or in a different route from Middle English from older French, a meaning to obstruct or hinder.

So cucumber? In the olden days, were they piled up to hinder someone, used as weapons to overthrow or destroy? No – different route – this time originally from Latin… and an interesting fact I found out – the phrase ‘as cool as a cucumber’ has some truth in it – on a hot day, the middle of a cucumber is likely to be up to 20ºF cooler than air temperature on a hot day – apparently… according to some… disputed by others!

Here is an interesting site:

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