That’s what chapter two is feeling like lately. Daunting. I’m not so enamored of the feeling that comes with the word, but I do appreciate the suitability of the word itself. For me, “daunting” brings to mind something bent—-a person weighed down with possibility perhaps, or someone brought down by the enormity of a task.
As evidenced by earlier posts, I’m a dork, so it should not surprise anyone that I went to the American Heritage Dictionary to investigate the etymology of the word after I finished the above statement. Like all word snobs, I do prefer the heft of the OED for purely aesthetic look-ups, but the AHD has the Indo-European root words listed in the back, and there’s nothing more satisfying than following a word back to its source. (My peers in dorkitude may especially enjoy terms “yard,” “angst,” or “epiphany,” all of which offer interesting connections through their IE root.)
Anyway, when I looked up “daunt,” I came up with this:
daunt (dônt, dänt)
To abate the courage of; discourage. See synonyms at dismay.
And it’s etymology:
Middle English daunten, from Old French danter, from Latin domitre, frequentative of domre, to tame. See dem- in Appendix I.
Of course, I went straight to Appendix I, where I found
DEFINITION: To constrain, force, especially to break in (horses). Oldest form *dem2-. 1. Suffixed o-grade form *dom()-o-. tame, from Old English tam, domesticated, from Germanic *tamaz. 2. O-grade form *dom-. daunt; indomitable, from Latin domre, to tame, subdue. 3. Zero-grade form *d-. adamant, diamond, from Greek damn, to tame (> adams, unconquerable, from *-d-nt-). (Pokorny (dem-) 199.)
Interesting, eh? I mean, I certainly did not know the “break in (horses)” or “tame, subdue” origin of the word, so how I did I come up with my feelings of “bent” or “brought down by”? I’m not arguing that my understanding of the word was right on, but when I thought of “bent,” I was definitely trying to articulate the idea of a person hunched over under a weight. Without sounding overly profound, it’s pretty amazing that a word can still (kind of, sort of) carry its original meaning. Language is coooooooool.
Okay, enough philosophizing for today. How about a visual to accompany the term “daunting”?
Here you go…