A hell of a world

Occasionally teachers learn something from their students. This is what has happend to me twice in the course of the last few days when marking student assignments. In both cases, the etymology of a word was concerned. One student pointed out that world is derived from the Germanic words for ‘man’ and ‘age’, wer and ald. Makes sense, but who might have guessed? The other student points out that hell and helmet are etymologically related. The common element is its root, kel, which means something like ‘conceal’, ‘cover’, ‘hide’. Originally, before its Christian interpretation, hell was a neutral word and just meant the abode of the dead. No fire and brimstone, punishment and pain.

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