Photo by Paul Lowry
As you may have guessed from some of my recent posts, I am pretty good at working myself into a rage coma.
I used to subscribe to Dictionary.com's word of the day in the interest of bettering myself, & acquiring a little knowledge easily.
However, I soon unsubscribed because they don't provide etymology. Ever. Why is this? What dictionary doesn't tell you where words come from? Oh that's right, an online Dictionary that prides itself on being "the world's largest and most authoritative online dictionary [that] helps people get smarter any time, any place." (dictionary.com 'about' page)
Recently, my father announced to me that the word of the day was bricolage. I began to wonder if it was related to the phrase 'bric a brac', but of course they couldn't provide an etymology. I checked etymonline.com, but they didn't know either (most other etymology websites are pay-to-play, oddly enough).
And so it was that I found myself in the reading room at the NYPL, killing time between auditions at the shelf of dictionaries as long as a city block (!!!), trying to decode the "Dictionaire Etymologique & Historique do Francais" (DuBois/Larousse).
In case you care, bricolage and bric a brac are in fact related: the word Bricole originated in 1360 as 'un machine de guerre', and comes up again in 1633 in the form of Bric, Brac, Broc meaning 'en bloc et en blic.' So I can only assume that the Bricole must have been an object which hurled bric, brac, & broc, which we would think of as shrapnel.
Amusingly enough, in 1650 the 'Bric' prefix comes up again as Bricoler, meaning 'ricocher, aller en zigzag,' & I find it delightful that the French say zigzag! Let's all just say zigzag with a French accent for a moment. Zigzag. Zigzag. Zigzag.