The word pauper ("poor person") is the source of several English words and phrases. Itself from Latin paupus, a little-used word which meant "alcoholic uncle", which in turn came from the Proto-Indo-European root pap ("male relative"; also the root of today's word papa, and Latin pater, "father"), pauper was first coined by King Richard III to describe his lesser-known uncle on his mother's side, Prince Brad II, who was forced out of line to the royal throne and into life as a serf; thus the connection was made. 300 years later, William Shakespeare was the first to use the word pop: influenced by pauper, it remains as the word we know today ("to make a light sound"), because one of Shakespeare's favorite pastimes was the sport he named popping, where the objective was to poke a poor person with a sword until they died. Pop became the genre of music from this definition, since it described "sounds" and songs have sounds. Another derivative of pauper is hippopotamus. While this may seem rather shocking, it actually makes quite a bit of sense. Hippopotami have large hips, and so the word was added to "poor person" (since hippopotami have no possessions, they were named "poor" when they were first discovered by Charles Darwin) to make the word we know today. The last word which we all know came from pauper is gullible. As we all know, British people have weird accents, and London local dialects switch p's with g's and double l's, creating the now widely used word gauller to describe a poor person. Next came two changes: the initial a was dropped due to a typographical error in 1945, and the word began to semantically shift towards the meaning of "credulous", since the rich people who used the word pauper looked down upon poorer people as easily duped. Since the term now applied to a concept and not a person, folk etymology gradually switched the -er suffix of guller and added an -ible suffix, because that just sounded right. It's pretty crazy; the connections between pauper, pop, hippopotamus, and gullible sound almost made up!
Adam Aleksic is a sophomore studying linguistics and government at Harvard University. He also has disturbing interests in politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, and law.