My niece—the older sister of the college student we visited while driving cross country—just gave birth to twins: a boy and a girl. These are her first children, and the first great-grandchildren on my side of the family. Celebrations ensued.

We were able to visit with her at her shower just a few weeks ago, and she was enormously pregnant then. Hugely pregnant. Those twins were little space hogs. Of course, it helped that she was wearing a gorgeous dark green shape-hugging dress and grinning from ear to ear.

One thing that many of the older women commented on admiringly was that Jen was so stylishly dressed—no baggy maternity clothes for her, despite the over-inflated basketball she was carrying everywhere.

All of this got me to thinking about infants, so of course I had to look up the word. An infant comes from the Latin for someone who cannot speak: in (not) and fant (speaking), from the verb fari. There’s some vague association with the word fame, of all things, in that it too is derived from fari.

Know any famous infants?

You might know more infants than you think. Legally speaking, anyone under 18 is an infant in the eyes of the law. This explains why my son, barely 18, only grunts when we ask him how his day was. Unable to speak.

My niece and nephew, being a bit premature, didn’t hit the five-pound threshold and were whisked off to the NICU, where they no doubt entertained the nurses with their operatic duets. They might not be able to talk, but they sure can sing.

Uh oh. <<WILD DIVERSION AHEAD!>>The baby shower for Maxwell (Max) Tuck and Estelle (Ellie) Jane (named in honor of their paternal great-grandparents) resulted in more baby paraphernalia than I’ve seen outside of the baby department at Macy’s.

Which reminds me of the derivation of the word paraphernalia, which sort of has to do with babies. It’s from the Greek parapherna, para (separate from) and pherna (dowry), so it really means anything a married woman owns that isn’t part of her dowry. Pherna isn’t discussed much today; we’ll talk about dowry some other time. Until then, my niece and her husband have lots of paraphernalia for those two cute little warbling infants.

Etymology #2

6 thoughts on “Infantastic!”

  1. I guess if I’d spelled it the way I thought it was spelled, ‘paraphanalia,’ the spellchecker would have stopped me from hurting myself. (So why does my iPhone want me to say ‘spellcheck?’)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I wondered whether an infanta was still an infanta at age 18+ … and was there a male equivalent? Hmm, should get off phone and go do some OED trawling on a larger screen. Great post!


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