I’ve just been reading Khoi Vinh’s marvellous blog, Subtraction. In his post on “Ways I’m a Dork: Travel Edition” he describes the Grid-It Organizer from Cocoon. The Grid-It holds “all the paraphernalia — cables, remotes, pens, dongles, adapters, etc.” that most of us now need to pack for work trips (and probably holidays too).
The word paraphernalia caught my eye – it’s a great word, I think, and in Khoi Vinh’s post such a delicious contrast with the short, concrete words (cables, remotes, pens etc.) that followed it. I used to know but had forgotten its etymology, so I looked it up.
Here’s the definition from Merriam-Webster:
Definition of PARAPHERNALIAFirst Known Use: 16511: the separate real or personal property of a married woman that she can dispose of by will and sometimes according to common law during her life2: personal belongings3 a: articles of equipment : furnishingsb: accessory items : appurtenancesOrigin of PARAPHERNALIAMedieval Latin, ultimately from Greek parapherna bride’s property beyond her dowry, from para– + phernē dowry, from pherein to bearFirst Known Use: 1651
And here’s the one from the Online Etymology Dictionary:
1650s, “a woman’s property besides her dowry,” from M.L. paraphernalia (short for paraphernalia bona “paraphernal goods”), neut. pl. of paraphernalis (adj.), from L.L. parapherna “a woman’s property besides her dowry,” from Gk. parapherna, neut. pl., from para– “beside” + pherne “dowry,” related to pherein “to carry” (see infer). Meaning “equipment, apparatus” is first attested 1791, from notion of odds and ends.
Fascinating, and thought-provoking.
By Marian Dougan