Saturday, November 10, 2018

Some word origins



Originally, the word hearse referred to a frame that carried candles and decorations above the coffin during a funeral. The word, originally spelled herse, comes from the Latin hirpicem, which was a large rake. The triangular frames used to carry candles in church services were the same shape as these ancient rakes. Eventually hearse came to mean the structure constructed over or around a coffin, and its modern sense, of a vehicle used during a funeral procession, pops up in the mid 17th century. 


A man arriving in a town in Ireland noticed all the shops and businesses were closed with not a soul to be seen. Then he heard a drum striking a slow beat that gradually became louder. Eventually a hearse led by two black orses came around the corner. In the hearse were two coffins. Behind the hearse was a solitary man walking a black dog and behind him was a queue of 200 men, solemnly walking in line. 

The onlooking man couldn’t contain his curiosity, he approached the man walking with the dog. 

"I am so sorry to disturb you sir, but I’ve never seen a funeral like this with so many walking in a straight line, who’s funeral is it?" The lwalker replied “There in that first coffin is my wife.” “What happened to her?” “My dog attacked and killed her.” “And the second coffin? he questioned. “It’s my mother in law. She was trying to help my wife when the dog attacked and killed her as well!!” 

A silent moment passed, then the onlooker asked “Can I borrow the dog?" The mourner replied “Get in the line”. 


The term wake was originally used to denote a prayer vigil, often an annual event held on the feast day of the saint to whom a parish church was dedicated. Over time the association with prayer has become less important, although not lost completely, and in many countries a wake is now mostly associated with the social interactions accompanying a funeral. 

It used to be the custom in most Celtic countries in Europe for mourners to keep watch or vigil over their dead until they were buried — this was called a "wake". This is still common in Ireland and North-western Scotland. 


With the change to the more recent practice of holding the wake at a funeral home rather than the home, the custom of providing refreshment to the mourners is often held directly after the funeral at the house or another convenient location. The wake or the viewing of the body is a prominent part of death rituals in many cultures. This ceremony allows one last interaction with the corpse, providing a time for the living to express their emotions and beliefs about death with the deceased. 


My wife turned to me during her mother’s funeral and hissed, "When we get home later, I'm going to make you pay for this!" For the life of me I couldn't think of what I had done wrong. Maybe it's because I wasn't sharing my popcorn. 

Pennies on the eyes: 

The custom of placing pennies on a dead person’s eyes originated from the Greek tradition of placing coins on the eyes or in the mouths of the dead so that the person could pay Charon, the ferryman, to row them across the river Styx once they reached the afterlife. 

To keep a deceased's eyes closed, undertakers placed coins on the eyes. Stingy people were sometimes described as being mean enough to steal the pennies off a dead man’s eyes. 

"And my advice for those who've died: 
Declare the pennies on your eyes, 
Cause I'm the taxman. 
Yeah, I'm the taxman." 

- George Harrison, “Taxman” 


A Requiem or Requiem Mass, also known as Mass for the dead is a Mass in the Catholic Church offered for the repose of the soul or souls of one or more deceased persons. It is usually, but not necessarily, celebrated in the context of a funeral. 

The Mass and its settings draw their name from the liturgy, which begins with the words "Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine" – "Grant them eternal rest, O Lord". 


Muldoon, the farmer, lived alone in the countryside with his pet dog of many years. Eventually, his dog died of old age. Muldoon went to the parish priest. "Father, my dear old dog is dead. Could you be saying a mass for the poor creature?" Father Patrick replied, "Muldoon, I'm sorry to hear of your dog's death, but we can't be holding services for an animal in the church. However, there's a new denomination down the road, and maybe they would do something for the animal." Muldoon said, "Thank you, Father. Do you think two thousand pounds is enough to donate for the service?" 

Father Patrick quickly responded, "Son! Why didn't you tell me the dog was Catholic?!" 


The word ‘funeral’ first appeared in writing in Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Knight’s Tale around 1386. In the story, rife with love, strife and ethical dilemmas, Chaucer wrote as the main character dies, “Putte in the fyr of funeral servyse;” and mentioned the word several more times in the story. 

The word had come from the Old French word funerailles, but like many French words, draws its roots from Latin. The words ‘funer’ and ‘funus’ are Latin meaning death rites. Those words have their origins in the Indo-European root word ‘dheu’ which means to die. 


I was at my dad’s funeral yesterday and my mum told me to leave the church if I found it boring. I could not believe it! Totally put me off my Mexican wave.

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