A rediscovery

In German, the translation of the verb ‘to discover’ is entdecken.

As a learner, I noticed how it’s a compound construction of the prefix ent- (remove or distance) and decken (to cover). Essentially, to entdecken is to remove the cover or lid of something.

The German language is much like Lego toys. Several words are made by combining simpler ones. The German word for gloves is Handschuhe (shoes for the hand) and even the famous Autobahn is merely a combination of auto- and bahn, meaning a track for vehicles. And things get interesting as we step into the animal kingdom with names such as Nasebär (Nose-bear for ant eaters), Waschbär (Wash-bear for raccoons given their habit of washing their food), Faultier (lazy animal for sloth) and Truthahn (Scary hen for Turkey).

I went quite far down this train of thought, when something occurred to me. For the first time, I realized that the word ‘discover’ was literally the same deconstruction as its German counterpart: of dis- and cover, meaning to uncover.

It’s funny how learning a new language teaches you so much more about the ones you already know. Just as a traveller who returns home is likely to notice several things he had always taken for granted, learning another language gives you a pair of ‘traveller eyes’ to help you rediscover your own.

PS: More fun with German animal names.

One thought on “A rediscovery

  1. Very interesting & true. Sanskrit is full of such words. Each letter of sanskrit has a meaning and that is taken as root to form more complex words.

    Liked by 1 person

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