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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

How long have people been using the word "embarrass"?


Search
: embarrass etymology

Why: In 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea:

"Ah, sir! I have been looking for you. Do you know the history of Spain?"

Now, one might know the history of one's own country by heart; but in the condition I was at the time, with troubled mind and head quite lost, I could not have said a word of it.

"Well," continued Captain Nemo, "you heard my question! Do you know the history of Spain?"

"Very slightly," I answered.

It doesn't say "embarrassed," but I think maybe he was. That book is from 1870.
Answer: Since the 16th century! It's from Italian in, "into," + barra, "bar" = imbarrare, "to hamper, hinder." Then French:
  • embarrasser (1670s) - "perplex, throw into doubt"
  • embarras de richesse (1726) - "the condition of having more wealth than one knows what to do with"
  • embarrass (1828) - "make [someone] feel awkward"
In a medical context, embarrassment is a synonym for distress, or physiological difficulty of some kind, such as fetal embarrassment or respiratory embarrassment.

Source
: EtymOnline

The More You Know: The science of embarrassment is called emderatology. Employers often use it to examine the way their employees deal with different situations.

Also, just about everyone on the planet, everyone who has ever lived! has been embarrassed at one time or another. Not just you! Isn't that comforting?


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