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  • Everyone knows that stories

  • are made up of words,

  • from short poems

  • to epic novels.

  • But did you know

  • that a single word itself

  • can tell an entire story?

  • You see, just as we can look at a story's plot,

  • setting,

  • and characters,

  • we can also study the history

  • of an individual word,

  • where it developed,

  • and the cultures and people

  • who helped shape it.

  • Looking into the story of a word

  • is like counting the rings of a tree.

  • Newer words, like Google

  • or cyborg,

  • have shorter stories.

  • But the older the word,

  • the longer the story

  • and the more it stands to reveal to us

  • not only about itself,

  • but about ourselves and our history.

  • The oldest words in present-day English

  • are those that come from Old English,

  • the ancestor of our modern language

  • whose first seeds were planted

  • about 1500 years ago.

  • Compared to languages like Greek or Chinese

  • that date back thousands of years,

  • English is just a sapling in the lexical forest.

  • But the stories of its words

  • often start long before English itself took root.

  • One such word is the familiar word true,

  • as in true stories.

  • Let's take a look.

  • True usually means factual, correct,

  • or faithful to reality.

  • It can also mean exact,

  • properly positioned,

  • upright,

  • or straight.

  • A true friend is loyal,

  • reliable,

  • faithful,

  • and steadfast.

  • The word true is a simple word,

  • and we can add some affixes

  • to grow its family tree

  • with words like truer,

  • truest,

  • truly,

  • truth,

  • and untruth.

  • But if we go in the other direction

  • to look at the roots of true itself,

  • we find even more relatives

  • further up the family tree.

  • The words trust,

  • bethroth,

  • and truce

  • all derive from the same source as true,

  • and these words all denote faithfulness

  • or confidence.

  • A thousand years ago,

  • the word true looked and sounded

  • different than it does today.

  • In several Old English dialects,

  • the word treow was a noun

  • that meant good faith or trust,

  • a pledge or a promise.

  • But it also had another definition,

  • tree,

  • and that's no coincidence.

  • If we trace the roots back even farther,

  • we find that both meanings

  • derive from a common origin,

  • where some of the earliest expressions

  • of the concept of truth

  • were associated with the uprightness of an oak,

  • the steadiness of a silver birch,

  • and the fidelity of an orchard baring fruit

  • year after year.

  • This may sound like a stretch at first,

  • but trees are the oldest living organisms

  • on this planet.

  • Some that would have been called treow long ago

  • still stand today.

  • The Fortingall Yew in Scotland

  • is more than 2,000 years old.

  • A Californian Bristlecone Pine

  • is more than 5,000.

  • And Utah's Pando-quaking Aspen Grove

  • has a single root system

  • that dates back more than 80 millennia.

  • Trees have also held a sacred place

  • in many cultures throughout history.

  • The Celtic peoples

  • who first inhabited the British Isles

  • believed that trees housed deities.

  • And, in fact, the ancient Druids take their name

  • from the same ancient root as tree.

  • Planting a tree is itself an act of faith

  • and commitment.

  • Not only are trees upright and prototypically straight,

  • but they are actual, solid, and real,

  • something you can see and touch.

  • And they are as reliable and steadfast to us today

  • as they were a millennium ago,

  • nurturing us,

  • sheltering us,

  • and providing the pages of our books.

  • Philosophers and poets,

  • people in search of the truth,

  • have often sought it in trees.

  • "What did the tree learn from the Earth

  • to be able to talk with the sky?"

  • asked Pablo Neruda.

  • "A tree falls the way it leans,"

  • says an old proverb.

  • Just as trees mark our landscapes

  • and witness our histories,

  • the stories of words landscape our language,

  • capturing the rains and sunshine of generations

  • and sending roots and branches far and wide.

  • As there is a whole orchard in a single seed,

  • there is a whole story in a single word,

  • and that's the truth.

Everyone knows that stories

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B1 TED-Ed tree root orchard family tree truth

【TED-Ed】The true story of 'true' - Gina Cooke

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    Zenn posted on 2014/02/05
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