Thursday, 1 September 2011

Buoyant Boys

I had never, until the other day noticed the obvious connection between a buoy, the thing that floats around in the sea, and buoyant. It may have been obvious to you, you clever thing, but it had whooshed straight over my head like the link between Capuchins and cappuccinos.

Buoy itself comes from the Old French word boie meaning chain, because buoys are chained in place. This means that a buoyant personality is technically a shackled one. What's odder is that if somebody was a prisoner they were emboie, or chained up. This meant that boy was a name given to prisoners, then servants, then peasants, and then young males in general. And that's where we get the word boy.


  1. Some authorities give a rival etymology from Dutch boeye "beacon".

  2. I won't be able to look at ym three sons in the same light.

  3. Whoaaaaa my mind is blown. How is it that after sheepishly professing ignorance of the link between buoy and buoyant, you manage to blow everyone's minds???
    Consider that book bought.

  4. And we all know that most young boys hate water. Well, well. How little they know about the etymology of their own word.