An Assassin goes Berserk!

French is silly, and so are drugs….

As most people do on a snowy evening in Chicago, I sat down on my semi-plush couch and opened a book I haven’t peered into for weeks!  It’s one of my favorites, and I do enjoy its contents very much.  Its called “A Certain ‘Je ne Sais Quoi'”, by Chloe Rhodes.  Its not a book of poetic compilations, its not full of prose, nor is it a lengthy novel, or a history lesson teacher.  It’s simply….words!  Of course just not words, because I’m typing away just making words, but rather, the history of words.  Moreover, the history of words we use everyday, that have found its origin in different languages.  English for one, loves to draw upon French words….or should I say the more beaujois class of English speakers love to remember such anti-phonetic words.  I hate the language, frankly.  You don’t pronounce 75% of the letters in any given word!  “Jors des….something….HA Google found it.  “Hors d’oeuvres”  Or as we say in English “or-durves”.

Two words I found fascinating tonight in this book.  One word from Arabic origin, and the other from Old Norse, a very old language not spoken today, but once spoken in Scandinavia.  The one from Arab origin “assassin” and the other “berserk”.  The word assassin you know, but berserk not so much, perhaps you’ve heard it with a “z” instead of an “s”.  Like this perhaps, “That five year old, once he ate the whole dozen of those sugar cookies, he just went ‘berzerk!'”  It means to go crazy, to be frantic, or even violent.

History anyone?

A brief history of “Assassin”: The Hashashin, was an Islamic militant sect founded in the ninth century when Yemeni Shiite Hasan-I Sabbah led them in their mission to to overthrow the Sunni Muslims by killing off their leaders.  The name Hasashin means “hashish eaters”.  They were users of early marijuana.   The first English usage of assassin, the anglicized translation of Hashashin, came about in 1603.

A brief history of “Berserk”: Also in the ninth century, the Vikings used this word to describe their ferocious warriors, who wore bearskins instead of armor.  They would eat mushrooms yielding a hallucinogenic state, so they would go into battle in a furious frenzied way.  They were called “Berserkers”.  This word first appeard in English much later, in the 1822.

Perhaps its the violence of late found in Egypt that made these two words jump off the page.  Perhaps its my admiration for movies like Bourne Identity, where the role of assassin is made to look like the most exciting and adventurous career one could embark on (but I’m not so easily tricked).  Much to my disappointment, this history lesson teaches me that Jason Bourne was likely a user too.  Sad, I know.

The thing thats curious to me, is their usage of drugs.  They were both users of mind-altering chemistry.  The Arabs with their Mary Jane, and the Vikings with their shrooms, those two peoples combined would have been worse than the terrible Turks.


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