01 August 2014

Five Minute Friday ~ Begin ~

I'm one of those strange sorts of people that likes school, loves learning and is fascinated by words.

So when I saw today's prompt, I thought...
"What a simple word, one that we all use all of the time - I wonder what begin's story just might be... What might I learn from trying to look it up?"
A little weird as far as the desired way to spend an early Friday morning, but that is what I did. And while the writing of this post will be right around five minutes... the research was at least a multi-tasking couple of hours!

The fancy, linguistic... scientific... word for finding out a word's story is, of course etymology (not to be confused with entomology... which my family does, all the time). One of the first things I learned was that English words with either Greek or Latin ancestry are much easier to trace that are words like "begin," which comes from West German/Old Teutonic roots, and a clear morphology (where you break the word up into parts where each part has clear meaning or significance) has been lost or remains untraceable. Yeah... 

From there it passed into Old English, Old Saxon and Old High German. Begin's ancestor looked like this: 

Can you see the similarity?

But it was looking at the meaning - connotations as well as denotations of that great-great-great grandparent - that's where things started to get just a bit interesting. The word has to clear morphemes: bi + ginnan. 

"Bi" appears to eventually have become the German prefix, "be" which usually signifies: 
  1. working on something or change of state
  2. touching the object
  3. discussing or mentioning the object
"Ginnan" was a lot more difficult to trace, but best I can tell, it could mean:

to cut open
to open up
to begin
to undertake
to gape
to yawn

By the time the word had hit Old Saxon (another predecessor to present day English... and American), it meant not only to begin - as it to start something - but to attempt.

Is anyone else out there ever afraid to begin... and won't... because they want to guarantee a finish as well?

While finishing or completing an endeavor is important, sometimes... sometimes what is more important is opening something up, looking deep into that yawning, gaping "mouth" to see what lies inside.

It seems like in our world we all always want guarantees and absolute assurance that whatever we start will finish in a way that we define as desirable. 

Should that be the case? 

I'm reminded of the fact that in God's economy, we can't make those guarantees. I've been following the story of the two missionaries in Liberia, working to help stop the worst Ebola epidemic known to date. They began something... in the sense that they attempted to treat desperately sick and ill people. Have they failed because they, themselves are sick with a disease where the only known treatment is palliative and prayer (not necessarily in that order)? Should they have never begun the process - and with their families, hopped the first plane out of that risky place? What if Jesus had done that?

Just yesterday, I was meditating on these verses from 1 Peter 2: "If when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to [Almighty Father]."

Today, what is God asking me... you... to begin, 
counting the cost yet without fear of that cost, 
because we have an example to follow, 
we have an Almighty Father to Whom we can confidently entrust ourselves?

Last week linking up with Lisa-Jo, as next week, 
Five Minute Friday will have a new home


  1. I love that you researched begin! I'm going to try to shift my thinking to "attempt" from "finish successfully." I think most beginnings will be much happier and optimistic with that shift. Thank you for your words and insight.

    1. Thanks, Annie! It was a lot of fun doing that research. :-) Glad those few words encouraged you. :-)


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