Through Old French, the word perplex comes from the Latin word perplexus, which could still mean "confusing" but also had side definitions of "entangled" or "intricate". Here we can chop off the prefix per-, which meant "through" (and is reconstructed as coming from the Proto-Indo-European root per, meaning "before"), leaving us with plexus, from the verb plectere, meaning "to weave". You can see there that the "entangled" etymology was most prominent going back. Plectere, through Proto-Italic plekto, may be derived from Proto-Indo-European plek, meaning "weave" or, alternatively, "to fold". So, furthest back, perplex means "before folding". Usages of perplex in every context have been decreasing since the nineteenth century, but perplexed tops the list as the most utilized form of the word. The same pattern is echoed in both Google Trends and NGrams.
The word waltz was directly borrowed sometime in the late eighteenth century from German Walzer, which they adopted as the name for the Bohemian dance . Walzer comes from the verb walzen, which meant "to dance", and that comes from the Old High German word walzan, which meant "to turn" (there certainly is a lot of twirling present in waltzes). In Proto-Germanic, this may be reconstructed to walt, with the same meaning, and in Proto-Indo-European, it's wel, also with the same definition. Other words derived from this PIE root include devolve, evolve, revolve, wallet, vulva, vault, and helicopter, among others. The verb welter (meaning "to move turbulently") also comes from the Old High German word walzan, so a lot of cognates there. Waltz as a verb was coined in 1862, off the noun. Anthimeria strikes again! Usage of the word waltz peaked in the interwar and World War II years.
On the eastern side of New Zealand's North Island, there is a hill that the locals refer to as Taumata. This, however, is not its real name. It's an abbreviation for a much longer and much harder to pronounce name: Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu. No joke. If you google that right now, you'll see 4.3 stars out of 5 and a twenty-foot-long road sign. Clocking in at 85 characters, there are actually even longer forms. Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaurehaeaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu has 92 and I'm not even going to bother listing the 105-letter one. The New Zealand Geographic Placenames Database uses a 57 character form and Guinness World Records recognizes the 85 character version as the longest place name, but I digress. Onto meaning! The official translation of this from the original Maori, according to Wikipedia, is "The summit where Tamatea, the man with the big knees, the slider, climber of mountains, the land-swallower who travelled about, played his nose flute to his loved one" (Tamatea was a figure present in many Maori folk tales). The Maori language is Tahitic, which is Polynesian, meaning that all of these lengthy words come from the Austronesian proto-language. And now you know.
I'll just hijack this post to point out that the plural of attorney general is attorneys general, not attorney generals like most non-lawyers and journalists think. Okay, on to our feature presentation: the etymology of attorney. The word was borrowed in the middle of the thirteenth century with the looser definition of "one appointed to act in place of another". This was a term in English Common Law for a while, until it took on a pejorative sense and in 1873 the term was officially replaced with barrister so as to lose the negative connotations. It was too late for the Americans, however, who had already picked up the term by then. Anyway, attorney comes from the Old French verb atorner, meaning "to assign", as in a lawyer is "assigned" to represent someone. Here we can break off the prefix a-, meaning "to", and we're left with tourner, "turn". Tourner comes from Latin tornare, which carries the more specific meaning of "to turn with a lathe" and is a conjugation of tornus, simply meaning "lathe". This in turn comes from Greek tornos, which meant "drafting compass" (that thing used to make circles), from Proto-Indo-European tere, "to turn".
The word maverick can mean two things. In the world of pundits and politics, it describes a person who operates independently and in an unorthodox manner (this can be either an adjective or a noun). Alternatively, in the world of ranching, it can mean an unbranded calf. So a maverick maverick is an unorthodox, unbranded, young cow. Surprisingly, both of these words come from the same place, and neatly tie together. They're named after Samuel Augustus Maverick, a Texan lawyer and landowner who was too lazy to brand his cattle. Everybody thought this controversially pioneering decision was awfully courageous, and soon afterwards his last name came to be applied to both independently minded people and cows like his. A maverick can also mean a starting hand of a jack and a queen in the poker variant Texas Hold 'Em, and that was named after the TV show Maverick, about a poker player called Bret Maverick. His last name probably had something to do with the "unorthodox" definition, so we've come full circle.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a junior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.