Having words, calling names: Steak and mistake

A view of the Ashkelon beachfront (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
A view of the Ashkelon beachfront
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
If it didn’t involve death, you could die laughing.  Read the following quote from a blog I happened upon:   [Queen Mary]  “burned countless Protestants at the steak…”  Recalling the autos-da-fė (the so-called “acts of faith”) in which “heretics” were burnt at the stake in Spain and Portugal in the 15th and 16th centuries, it just isn’t funny. 
“Stake” has many meanings.  It is usually a length of wood or metal used for marking an area (“staking a claim”); or to use stakes to put up fencing (“a stake fence”), to burn at the stake (the pole to which the so-called heretic was tied).  A trickier one is “to raise the stakes,” which I found as possibly referring to the stake or little stick that bettors used to hang their betting money on.  It’s a possibility, but I wouldn’t stake any money on it.
“Mistake” has nothing to do with stake.  It is comprised of two parts “mis” and “take” Therefore as a verb, the past tense in “mistook.”  “Take” is used in filming, as in “Scene “X,” Take One,” with each refilming the “Take” number changes, until the director is satisfied.
Reticent or reluctant
I have seen Seth Frantzman twice use the word “reticent” where I would have written “reluctant.”  But, as usual, Frantzman knows what he is doing.  Here’s what I found on-line as a second meaning for “reticent: Not wanting to take some action, reluctant.... The second sense of “reticent” has developed in the years since the end of the Second World War and is still not accepted as correct usage by all native speakers of English. However, of the major English-language dictionaries, Merriam-Webster does recognize the newer sense.”
Places and cloths
 Embedded in most Jewish hearts is the hidden “shmattalogue,” as a Parisian friend of mine once defined his craft.  Has anyone ever grabbed you by the lapel to make a point in an argument, only to interrupt himself to say, “Hmm, good material!”
There is an interesting connection between places and names of different types of cloth: “Denim” comes from the French city of Nîmes – pronounced without the “s” – the denim cloth is from that city, in French, “de Nîmes.”  
“Jeans,” which should come from the Levites of Jerusalem (as in Levi Strauss), are from a type of material made in Genoa, whose name in Old French was Jannes.  And if already in the area, “damask,” is a reversible figured fabric of silk, wool, linen, cotton, according to Dr. Wikipedia, and its origin is obvious.  Dropping down from Damascus to Gaza, what do you guess originated in Gaza?  Correct, “gauze.”  Anyway that’s one major theory.
While speaking of Gaza, we move a few kilometers north to Ashkelon.  Since there is no “Sh” sound in Greek, the name became Askelon in the ancient Greek translations, but why that was carried over into the King James translation from the Hebrew, whose translators were helped by Jews, I know not.   But there it is, in the Second Book of Samuel, “Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Askelon.” (1:20).
All that just to say that hat is why green onions are named after the onion of Askelon: scallion.
“Rapscallion” has nothing to do with onions, small or large.
It seems that the etymology went from “rascal” to “rascallion” to “rapscallion.”  It sounds like rascal was not strong enough, or did not have that Latinate sheen to make it sound sufficiently derogatory, so the suffix “ion” was added.  How the “P” goin there, is only a matter of darkest history, or maybe just mispronunciation.
Who was it who told us a while ago, that their Cockney taxi driver in London, spoke about “me bruvver,” which in normative English would be “my brother?”
Wonderful Words
That is the name of a 554-page book kindly sent to me by Dr. Norman Morrison who lives in South Africa, near Cape Town, and was a professor at the University of Cape Town.  His father, Ben (BenZion), is the author of the book “Wonderful Words A Study in Countersense,” published in 1954. He was a medical doctor, and yet was able to put together an original study of hundreds of three-letter roots of Hebrew words found in the Bible, and even invented new words in English to help categorize them.  The same roots had opposite meanings (countersense) and Dr. Morrison tracked them down. Meticulously!
Since neither you, the reader, nor I are philologists, we will stop the description of the book here, with a hearty thanks to Prof. Morrison and a salute to the memory of Dr. Ben Morrison.
Who would have thought that “Out of Cape Town will go forth Torah?”
The writer may be reached via jerusalemreport@gmail.com