Correcting my limitless lack of knowledge, one post at a time.
Thursday, June 10, 2010
I was bit bemused today to discover that A. Word. A. Day is posting about the word "shambles". Zealous readers here (yeah, right) who do not have short term memory loss will realize that "shambles" came up in the course of discovering the source of the word shambolic. This can only mean one of two things: A.) A. Word. A. Day. has been methodically following this blog to come up with material, or B.) it is a complete coincidence. I leave you to draw your own conclusions.
There are a couple of uh-ohs related to that post. First, your humble blogger apparently did not dig back far enough. Sure, we (eventually) got to the fact that shambles=slaughterhouse, but where did the word really come from?
According to AWAD, "shambles" actually traces its roots back to the Latin scamnum, which mean "footstool, low bench" or something like that. Gradually this evolved into a word meaning "vendor's table" and then "butcher's table". It's quite interesting, if somewhat horrific to contemplate how the word came to take on its destructive, chaotic current meaning.
The second, uh oh, though, is surprisingly AWAD's, not mine. It uses this sentence as an example: "The program aims to rebuild a system in shambles before nearly 4,000 schools were destroyed."
($2 Billion Sought to Overhaul Ruined Haiti Schools; Associated Press; May 15, 2010.)
Now, according to my sources, "in shambles" is wrong. It should be something more like "a system that was a shambles". So does usage override correctness? What say you?