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This blog is about the fascinating, fun, and challenging things about the English language. I hope to entertain you and to help you with problems or just questions you might have with spelling and usage. I go beyond just stating what is right and what is wrong, and provide some history or some tips to help you remember. Is something puzzling you? Feel free to email me at wordlady.barber@gmail.com.
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Friday, April 22, 2011

Easter

Happy Easter! Eostre was an Anglo-Saxon goddess of the dawn, whose feast was celebrated at the spring equinox. The early Christians had a habit of blending Christian with non-Christian practices; for instance, the date of Christmas coincides roughly with the Roman feast of Saturnalia (seven days of merrymaking starting December 17th) and the festival of the birth of the sun god Mithra (December 25th). In this case, the Christian missionaries to Britain co-opted an Anglo-Saxon religious festival and even the goddess's name. Other languages, in contrast, derive their word for Easter from the Hebrew Pesach (Passover): French, for instance, has Pâques, Italian has Pasqua, and Russian has Paska.

3 comments:

  1. Hi,

    So then "East" also comes from "dawn" ?

    Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Well spotted, E.T.; "East" does ultimately come from a proto-Germanic word meaning "dawn". Makes sense!

    ReplyDelete
  3. That's my hobby.

    Actually, I still struggle with telling "Easter" and "Eastern" apart ...

    Thank you for your kindness and interesting posts!

    ReplyDelete

About Me

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Canada's Word Lady, Katherine Barber is an expert on the English language and a frequent guest on radio and television. She was Editor-in-Chief of the Canadian Oxford Dictionary. Her witty and informative talks on the stories behind our words are very popular. Contact her at wordlady.barber@gmail.com to book her for speaking engagements; she can tailor her talks to almost any subject. She is also available as an expert witness for lawsuits.