Friday, August 25, 2006

Mama Says Om - Scratch

This week, the theme at Mama Says Om is "scratch", and it may be the easiest MSO theme I have ever tackled.

The word scratch is probably a fusion of the Middle/Old English words scratten and crachen, both meaning "to scratch or scrape" and possibly originating in the Middle Dutch cratsen, all three words imitative of the sound made by marks being incised on a dull surface with a sharp implement. Most of my lexicons have noted the former and concluded by stating that scratch is "Middle English, archaic, derivation obscure", so I could go no further.

At various times, scratch has been used as a slang expression for money, to describe the starting line of a foot race, as meaning zero or nothing (as in starting from scratch) or as a nickname for the Devil himself (Old Scratch). When employed as a verb, to scratch something or someone means to withdraw it (or them) from competition, and the word also describes the furrows in one's epidermis sustained when she takes a headlong tumble into the blackberry bushes or falls from a bicycle into the roadway.

What I didn't know, was that the words scratch and write were once used interchangably in the English language, and that they meant much the same thing. The word write originates in the Old English word writan, to score, outline, or draw the figure of, and it also meant to set something down in writing, to make one's personal mark or signature on a document.

My handwriting has been impossible to read for years, and it is the distilled essence of scratch or scratching, resembling nothing more than mysterious meaningless marks on a wall or sheet of paper - the marks do mean something, but like the undeciphered Linear A language of ancient Crete, they cannot be read or understood.


Lil said...

I like your version of 'scratch'!

Anonymous said...

Funny, my handwriting has grown better and more florrid as they years pass.