The word ‘weird’ is very old, but it is also very current, people say it all the time, in all sorts of different contexts from meaning unusual, to odd, to crazy, to spooky, to sinister and creepy and even perverted… It’s also a word I have to keep checking I have spelt correctly – I just can’t keep it in mind that it defies the ‘i before e’ rule!
It originally meant to control fate as in Fate/the Fates, and has its origins in the same root as Old Norse, Old Saxon and Old High German. It may have originated from a word meaning to turn or bend – I guess like bending someone’s will, or turning their mind. By the time Shakespeare was writing it also meant supernatural – as we all know from the weird sisters in Macbeth. Weird people were supposed to look different, their magical mystical powers showing through marking them as… well, weird!
Thinking about the ‘i before e’ rule… here are a few more exceptions…
Back to weird… Although I know it’s a very old word, I thought its common use these days was just a modern thing. I have been editing my next Radwinter book, Earthquake, and came across this:
“The only thing Cynthia said of any use was about a couple of the other girls; she couldn’t remember their names, but one she remembered her mother saying, was a funny little thing who had a weird side… The actual word wasn’t weird it was something someone would have said fifty or so years ago…”
Just last night, I was reading an Agatha Christie novel, published in 1936, and came across this:
The third photograph was a very old one, now faded and yellow. It represented a young man and woman in somewhat old-fashioned clothes standing arm in arm. The man had a flower in his buttonhole and there was an air of bygone festivity about the whole pose.
“Probably a wedding picture,” said Poirot. “Regard, Hastings, did I not tell you that she had been a beautiful woman.”
He was right. Disfigured by old-fashioned hair-dressing and weird clothes, there was no disguising the handsomeness of the girl in the picture with her clear-cut features and spirited bearing.
So, in 1936, which was the time my character was speaking of, one of Agatha Christie’s characters had used weird in what i had thought was a completely modern way!
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