We use the word footage to denote a film or videotape of something, but how is this connected to feet? To answer this, we must go back to the early days of video production, when 35 mm silent films were actually reels of frames and people measured it in feet, hence the term. So, the root of footage is the unit of measurement, but why, even, is that called a foot? The answer is easy to guess: it's about the length of a man's foot (probably not specifically a king's, as some tales suggest). What an arbitrary system, what an arbitrary etymology. In Middle English, the word foot alternatively took the forms of fote and fot, and in Old English, it was fot with a bit of an extra emphasis on the central o. This still had the definition of "foot", as did the Proto-Germanic word it may be reconstructed back to, fots. Finally, this is thought to be from the Proto-Indo-European root ped, still meaning "foot" (note the p to f change characteristic of Grimm's Law changes). Anyway, you could say that that word left a fascinating footprint!
Adam Aleksic is a 220-month-old, 2800-ounce high school senior with disturbing interests in etymology, vexillology, geography, board games, limericks, and law. Adam will be studying linguistics at Harvard College in the fall.
The Etymology Nerd