Monday, 12 September 2011

Discovering Disco

I sat in airport yesterday for an hour gongoozling a screen on which amazing facts were being put up for the edification of the delayed passengers. One of the amazing facts was that disco meant I learn in Latin. The idea, I think, was that this was amusing because it made a disco sound like a school.

The fact was technically true, but utterly misleading, in that there is no connection between the two words. However, buried at the bottom was a little gem of truth, because a disco is really a library.

The Italian for library is biblioteca, which means book collection. It therefore follows, as surely as night follows day, that the Italian for a record collection should be discoteca. It was the French who adapted this word into the more familiar discotheque, and it was the Americans who shortened it to disco. Then, because America is cool, disco got taken up by every country in the world. And so an Italian library became a universal nightclub.

It should also be noted that the Latin disco (learn) doesn't have anything to do with discover (dis-cover).

1 comment:

  1. Italy's national collection of recorded music, where you can go and listen - I believe, free of charge - to practically anything that's ever been saved on vinyl, tape or digital form is in Via Caetani, Rome (just round the corner from Piazza Venezia. It's called - you guessed it - the Discoteca dello Stato.