Wednesday, November 11, 2015

veteran--and a bonus word as well

                                                                                                                U.S. Navy

It's Veteran's Day here in the U.S. which for some reason I'm more aware of than usual, perhaps because it's in the middle of the week, even though so many other holidays have been moved to Mondays to accommodate weekend plans. There have been lots of vets' activities too, one of which I'll mention below.

So I started thinking about the word 'veteran', and realized that I really didn't have a clue where it came from--not even a guess.

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, 'veteran' came into English around 1500 and meant pretty much what we mean now--'an old, experienced soldier'. The French was vétéran, the Latin veteranus, and though this had the meaning of "old, aged or in long use", it was used particularly of soldiers. But the emphasis on age is there in the source word, vetus, which is all about age and use, and not about war. It's also the source of words like the Italian vecchio, the Spanish viejo, and the French vieux, which all mean old or aged and may be more familiar to us from our various language studies. It's a bit surprising to me, as, when you think about it, there must always have been some pretty young veterans coming home from every war. But I guess they do stay veterans for a pretty long time afterwards.

My mother, Carolyn S. Graham, as a WAVE

The expanded use of 'veteran' to mean anyone who has been of long service in a role or job doesn't come around in print till about 1590, which is a fairly long time after as these things go. 

This also got me thinking about the word 'inveterate'. Turns out I didn't really know what 'inveterate' meant. I think I've probably heard it most used in the phrase, 'an inveterate liar', so I always thought it meant something like 'accomplished' or 'skilled', maybe with a touch of shadiness thrown in. But inveterate really means 'habitual or long-standing'. It too has vetus at its root, the Latin  past participle inveterare meaning 'to grow old in'.

Santa Cruz is holding a very Santa Cruzan sort of Veteran's Day celebration this year. the Holistic Veterans are inviting the community to a Community Healing Project this evening. They're using the Veterans Memorial to host a wide range of holistic healing sessions, like yoga, reiki, acupuncture and so on, serving an organic meal, doing pottery and art  and music. It's largely free but there's an auction and a raffle and all proceeds are going to be used to send twelve vets to healing retreat in Costa Rica. Here's a story of the Holistic Warriors and how they came to know of this Costa Rican site. I won't be able to attend this evening but it's a great idea and I certainly hope it's successful.

Although I am not really of a military cast of mind, coming of age in the Vietnam era as I did, both my parents were vets and I owe my existence to the fact that they were, as they met while stationed overseas. So Happy Veteran's Day, everyone.


  1. Hmm. I guess I thought an inveterate liar was someone for whom lying was the default mode. Can one be an inveterate pumpkin bread baker? And what about invertebrate liars? Or without backbones are they flop on the couch liers? Lyers? Layers? Help!

  2. Yes. That is pretty much what I thought it was, now you define it like that. But apparently it's really more like a chronic liar. You can pretty much be an inveterate anything so long as you do it consistently over time. Which I suppose could be the default mode, but not always.

    Those spineless invertebrate liars or lyers I have no stomach for.

  3. Thanks Seana. I've shared on Facebook. And I always love seeing that picture of mom. I wish we had one of dad in uniform. But wasn't mom a doll?

  4. I was looking online to see if there was one of him as well, but to no avail. Do we have one somewhere? Something to think about for next year.

    And yes, it's a great picture of her before she gave it all up for us...

  5. Thanks. I wish I had one of my dad in uniform to put up as well.