- May 6, 2015
- Posted by: Madrigal Admin
- Category: Word of the Week Blog
I am, in the eyes of my children, a fossil, with out-dated views and opinions that are out-of-step with fashion. Of course, a real fossil is … a relic, remnant, or representation of an organism that existed in a past geological age. It may also be the activity of such an organism, occurring in the form of mineralized bones, shells, etc, as casts, impressions, and moulds, and as frozen perfectly preserved organisms.
Being born in the 20th century does not qualify as a past geological age (perhaps it may become known as the Infolithic Age) but I am sure my bones are mineralised and I certainly feel like a relic.
Fossil has been in English since the early 17th century when it meant anything dug up. It was used as an adjective soon afterwards ie used for objects obtained by digging (the more recent, from 1835, the term fossil fuel preserves this sense). Fossil came from French fossile (16c.) and originally from Latin fossilis meaning dug up based on fodere meaning to dig. In the 18th century fossil gained the more restricted meaning of the geological remains of a plant or animal.
Describing an old person as a fossil is a piece of slang first used in 1859—so the insensitivity of the young to the older generations is nothing new.