September 8th, 2003

Abelian Grape

etymology spam

It's occurred to me that I don't have the slightest idea how "orient" and "orientation" got to mean what they mean. I know the root comes into English from Norman French, but I thought that at the time, it just meant "east". How did it end up being so strongly associated with the idea of direction or getting one's bearings? Wouldn't "occidentation" have made just as much sense? And actually, wouldn't a word for north have made more sense, considering that compasses point that way?

I can sort of see how it went from directional meanings to the sexual one, in that at first people were using the word as if one's sexuality had to "point" in one of two directions. Silly and simplistic, but at least comprehensible...
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