Spring Bounces In

I didn’t see her slip in — the tall, wavy-haired figure silhouetted in front of me.

“Afternoon, Ms. Kahn,” she said.

“And to you, Ms. Khan.” It was Amira Khan, the anonymous Boss Lady’s go-fer. Things were looking up. “Mrs. Big” was loaded and generous. After a long drought, the spring was bubbling again. The novelist barista’s questions would have to wait.

“My employer decided to spring for a few etymology questions,” said Ms. Khan, sliding a bulging business-sized envelope toward me. I swear I could hear the crinkle of crisp bills over the hiss of the espresso maker.

“Please, have a seat. What can I do for you?”

“It’s about spring.”

“The season, the water source, or the bouncy kind?”

“All of them. But those are just the nouns. She wants the verbs too.”

I peeked into the envelope and riffled through the green stuff with a thumbnail. “OK. She’s got it covered.


Lupine in Portuguese Bend. J.B. Herman

“The verb meaning ‘to bounce up, move forward with a sudden jerk or bound’ goes back at least to 888, a nice round bouncy year, when the Anglo-Saxon King Alfred translated a 6th century Latin work into English.

“In Anglo-Saxon (or Old English) the noun spring meant ‘the place of rising or issuing from the ground, the source of a well, stream or river.’ It was springing up from the earth, see? Figuratively it came to mean ‘the source or origin of something.’ That meaning broadened out to mean ‘the action or time of rising or springing into existence.’ From around 1380 to 1600 it was common to refer to the spring of day or the spring of dawn. In the 1500s we find writings about the spring of the year.

“Wouldn’t that mean ‘the beginning of the year’?” Ms. Khan asked.

“Exactly. Until the calendar reform of 1751, the new year began on March 25 in England.”

“Spring does seem like the time of new beginnings. It makes sense that the year would begin then.”


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