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Neal Swarbrick
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A Short Etymology of Childhood . . . .

I was playing Words with Friends on FB the other day with my Mum and she used the word "Tyke" . . . Which got me thinking:

O.E. cild "child, infant," from P.Gmc. *kiltham (source of Gothic kilþei "womb," Dan. kuld "children of the same marriage") Also in O.E. meaning "a youth of gentle birth" (archaic, usually written childe). In 16thC. especially "girl child." The plural began in O.E., where the plural was at first cild, identical with the singular, then @ 975AD a plural form cildru (gen. cildra) arose, then re-pluraled in late 12thC. as children, which is a double plural. M.E. plural cildre survives in Lancashire dialect childer and in Childermas (c.1000AD, cildramæsse) "festival of the Holy Innocents" (Dec. 28).

Boy first appears in the Mid 13thC - "Servant, Knave, Commoner, Boy" - Unknown Origin. Possibly from the O. Fr. Embuie - "One Fettered" from L. Boia - "Leg Iron".
There is also a possibility that it comes from the E. Fris. Boi - "Young Gentleman" which may be related to the Du. Boef - "Knave" which is the M.D. Boeve and may share the same root as the M.L.G. Buobe - "Babe"
"Boy" was being used as an insult in the 13thC and was used as a term for "Slave from the 16thC.

In the 13thC "Gyrle" was used to denote either sex. Again it is of Unknown Origin.
It is probably from the P.Gmc. *gurwilon-, dim. of *gurwjoz (apparently also represented by Low Ger. gære "boy, girl," Norw. dialectal gorre, Swed. dialectal gurre "small child," though the exact relationship between all these is obscure), from PIE *ghwrgh-, also found in Gk. parthenos "virgin.
Specific meaning of "female child" is late 14thC. Applied to "any young unmarried woman" since mid-15thC. Meaning "sweetheart" is from 1640s.

c.1200AD, "the young of a goat," from Scandinavian source (cf. O.N. kið "young goat"), from P.Gmc. *kiðjom (cf. O.H.G. kizzi, Ger. kitze, Dan./Swed. kid). Extended meaning of "child" first recorded as slang 1590s, established in informal usage by 1840s. Applied to skillful young thieves and pugilists since at least 1812.

Sprog is a relatively modern words, first found in the 1940s Military Services Slang. Meaning "Child" or "New Recruit" It is of Unkown Origin.

c.1500AD, slang, "beggar's child," originally Northern, Midlands and Western England dialect word for "makeshift or ragged garment;" probably the same word as O.E. bratt "cloak," which is from a Celtic source (cf. O.Ir. bratt "cloak, cloth"). The modern meaning is perhaps from notion of "child's apron."

c.1400AD, "cur, mongrel," from O.N. tik "bitch," related to M.L.G. tike. Also applied in Middle English to a low-bred or lazy man. The meaning "child" is from 1902, though it was used in playful reproof from 1894.

So most of the words we use for Children were extant by the 14thC, although
maybe not in the format and meaning that we take for granted these days.

The Apostrophe.

The Apostrophe is probably one of the most important punctuation marks in the English language yet, sadly, one of the most unused and mis-used of all of them.

There are 13 Rules regarding the use of the Apostrophe. They are:

Rule 1
Use the apostrophe with contractions. The apostrophe is always placed at the spot where the letter(s) has been removed.


don't, isn't
You're right.
She's a great teacher.
Should've, would've, could've.

Rule 2
Use the apostrophe to show possession. Place the apostrophe before the s to show singular possession.


one boy's hat
one woman's hat
one actress's hat
one child's hat
Ms. Chang's house

NOTE: Although names ending in s or an s sound are not required to have the second s added in possessive form, it is preferred.


Mr. Jones's golf clubs
Texas's weather
Ms. Straus's daughter
Jose Sanchez's artwork
Dr. Hastings's appointment (name is Hastings)
Mrs. Lees's books (name is Lees)

Rule 3
Use the apostrophe where the noun that should follow is implied.


This was his father's, not his, jacket.

Rule 4
To show plural possession, make the noun plural first. Then immediately use the apostrophe.


two boys' hats two women's hats
two actresses' hats
two children's hats
the Changs' house
the Joneses' golf clubs
the Strauses' daughter
the Sanchezes' artwork
the Hastingses' appointment
the Leeses' books

Rule 5
Do not use an apostrophe for the plural of a name.


We visited the Sanchezes in Los Angeles.
The Changs have two cats and a dog.

Rule 6
With a singular compound noun, show possession with 's at the end of the word.


my mother-in-law's hat

Rule 7
If the compound noun is plural, form the plural first and then use the apostrophe.


my two brothers-in-law's hats

Rule 8
Use the apostrophe and s after the second name only if two people possess the same item.


Cesar and Maribel's home is constructed of redwood.
Cesar's and Maribel's job contracts will be renewed next year.
Indicates separate ownership.
Cesar and Maribel's job contracts will be renewed next year.
Indicates joint ownership of more than one contract.

Rule 9
Never use an apostrophe with possessive pronouns: his, hers, its, theirs, ours, yours, whose. They already show possession so they do not require an apostrophe.

This book is hers, not yours.

Sincerely your's.

Rule 10
The only time an apostrophe is used for it's is when it is a contraction for it is or it has.


It's a nice day.
It's your right to refuse the invitation.
It's been great getting to know you.

Rule 11
The plurals for capital letters and numbers used as nouns are not formed with apostrophes.


She consulted with three M.D.s.
She went to three M.D.s' offices.
The apostrophe is needed here to show plural possessive.

She learned her ABCs.
the 1990s not the 1990's
the '90s or the mid-'70s NOT the '90's or the mid-'70's
She learned her times tables for 6s and 7s.


Use apostrophes with capital letters and numbers when the meaning would be unclear otherwise.


Please dot your i's.
You don't mean is.
Ted couldn't distinguish between his 6's and 0's.

You need to use the apostrophe to indicate the plural of zero or it will look like the word Os. To be consistent within a sentence, you would also use the apostrophe to indicate the plural of 6's.

Rule 12
Use the possessive case in front of a gerund (-ing word).


Alex's skating was a joy to behold.
This does not stop Joan's inspecting of our facilities next Thursday.

Rule 13
If the gerund has a pronoun in front of it, use the possessive form of that pronoun.


I appreciate your inviting me to dinner. I appreciated his working with me to resolve the conflict.

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