Tuesday, June 17, 2008


I get emails and letters from people who read my books. It's wonderful. It keeps me going. I am so grateful. Some of them say things like, "I am such a fan " or, from the youngest readers, "I'm your biggest fan!!!!!!!!". (Current record number of exclamation points 62). Sometimes people send me stories they have written using my characters. Sometimes I get wonderful artwork.
This morning there were more missives than usual, and it set me wondering. Mr. Google, Ms. Firefox and friends, always eager to help me avoid real work, led to this:
There are two proposed etymologies, which seem to me like phases in the same process.
1. Fan is a shortened form of "fanatic". Fanatic, in 16th century England, meant "insane person". The Latin root word is fanaticus, which also meant "insane person" but adds the nuance of "divinely inspired". Similarly rooted words meant "sacred place" or "temple" Somewhere around 1647 'fanatic', the adjective, began to mean "extremely zealous" and a few years later, it slipped into noun-hood.
2. The word "fancy" was used in 19th century England to describe a longing or wish. Then it was used to describe boxing enthusiasts. The first shortened form was "fance", then, later, "fan"--both words born to describe boxing enthusiasts. Since most boxing enthusiasts then were very, very enthused, the word fan was later transferred to people who were excitedly devoted to other things.
and now, off to write about a fanatic...

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