Television? No good will come of this device. The word is half Greek and half Latin.

—C. P. Scott

Orchids, orchards, orchestras….? I sailed past an orchard this afternoon, the new apples blushing rosy, too bitter to bite, holding out their promise. And it has been some months now that I have been meaning to Do Something researchy for myself about the etymological links between orchards and orchids. I knew that the ancient Greek for testicle has given us orchid (orchis / ὄρχις), but perhaps, quite excitingly, orchard might have the same origin: about growing, fertility, swellings, even?

From such a confident stance, it takes only a mind with too much work to avoid to begin to wonder about our other orch- words. So that’s what you’re getting today: sorry. No fancy cod-philosophising, no mooning (metaphorically) at the clouds (hello sky, hello, trees, just like the weedy and despised Fotherington Thomas). No, this is just some utter imp-indulgence; the linguistic equivalent of a horse rolling in mud and hay…

Now, the admirable online etymological dictionary says we get orchard from Old English’s wort (fruit) and geard (garden/yard). There’s also a link to hortus in ancient Greek (horiatiki in modern Gk is the green veg on your plate!) Hmmm; I want testicles (so to speak, and definitely not on my plate). Am I alone in wanting a neat link? Some more hunting reveals that I was so off-course: the lovely orkheisthai is ancient Greek verb ‘to dance’. (Did you know that in modern Italian, ‘to dance’ is ballare, whence we get, I assume – but we can see my forensic linguistics is rubbish – ballet?) An orchesography is a tretise upon dancing; an orchestrion is a mechanical musical instrument, resembling a barrel organ. But, huzzah, kalloo kalay! – orchialgia is testicular pain! Strangely, I don’t feel any better for finding that out.

A far funnier tale comes from a chum of yore. Picture if you will a well-to-do family, playing Trivial Pursuit after dinner.

“What – ” begins mama imperiously, “-was the name of the Roman Emperor who built a wall between England and Scotland?”

“Well,” chime the eager-to-please children, “that’s easy. Hadrian, of course!”

“Oh, no!” exclaims the matriarch as she turns over the card with rather too fast a flourish,  reading the wrong answer but with her very best Greek pronunciation. “It was Testicles!”

PS – thanks to our ovular / orchistular Humpty for the post’s title…no; don’t tempt me. I’m finished. Over. Kaput. Bye. Bye. Going now. Going….

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