The craft of weaving clothes and fabrics has been around since the first civilizations laid claim to parts of the earth. Unlike the mechanized world we live in, weavers of the yore wove intricate details by hand and their produce was nothing less than magnificent pieces of art. The demand for brilliantly crafted fabric was overwhelming and they were an important trade commodity, evident from that fact the Chinese trade route to the middle east and Europe was referred to as the Silk Route. But, weaving also found a route to our dictionaries and various words we use today trace their ancestry to it.
The Latin word for ‘weaving’ is texere. Its hints are seen to this day in the word textile which refers to cloth or woven fabric.
One important attribute of any woven fabric is how it looks and feels – a quality that was referred to as textura. It was then introduced into the English language as ‘texture’. Thus, texture means the feel, appearance or consistency of something. For instance, if referring to a fabric’s texture, it means how the fabric feels against our skin.
The art of weaving, however, was not limited to clothes and fabrics. It found its use in the hands of writers as well. Afterall, all writers do is ‘weave words into pages’. Courtesy of these ‘word weavers’, the word text, meaning printed or written words, was derived from texere. Anything related to the text was textual.
When prefixed with con– (with), we get the word ‘context’ (from Lt. contexere : weave together). It refers to the parts of text written or spoken immediately after a specific word or phrase, clarifying its meaning. Context is also used in a broader sense to refer to the circumstances surrounding an event, statement or idea which gives us a better understanding of the entity. For instance, the Battle of Buxar is an important event in the context of Indian history.
A different prefix pre- when attached to ‘text’ results in ‘pretext’ which means a reason given for doing something that is not the actual reason. It is derived from praetextere(literally: to weave in front) which meant to hide, disguise or cover. Thus, if someone is asking for a leave on the pretext of being sick, he or she might just be planning to hang out with friends while others think they are having it rough. Moving from the frontside to the underside, we have ‘subtext’ (Lt. subtexere: to weave under; underlying thread) which refers to the underlying theme of, say, a play or a book.
The word tissue has roots similar to the above words but it’s directly derived from the Old French word tissu (ribbon, headband, belt of woven material). Nowadays, tissue has acquired various meanings. Generally, it means a piece of absorbent paper that can be used as a handkerchief. In a biological sense, it refers to a group of similar cells that carry out a specific function in the body.
A quick look at the words again should make the quiz ahead easy.
|Textile||Cloth or woven fabric|
|Texture||The feel, appearance or consistency of something|
|Text||Written or printed words|
|Text||-ual||Relating to written or printed words|
|Con-||Text||The circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood|
|Pre-||Text||A reason given in justification of a course of action that is not the real reason|
|Sub-||Text||Underlying theme (of a play, book, etc.)|
|Tissue||A piece of absorbent paper that can be used as a handkerchief; a group of similar cells that carry out a specific function in the body|
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