Not so square bracket

The origin of bracket

The rather mundane word, bracket, has a sexier history than you would expect from something found in a hardware store.

Melioration or deterioration?

When a word changes its meaning it can either improve or worsen. The change in meaning can be either an example of melioration or deterioration. Melioration is where the word takes on a more favorable connotation. See the recent post on paradise which changed its meaning from an ordinary orchard to the heavenly garden of God. Deterioration is where a word takes on a more negative association.

So how should we describe the change in the word bracket?  It originated from the Spanish word, bragueta. It is a word used to describe what we would call a codpiece, to being a word used to describe an object that holds up a shelf. And by the way a codd from Old English meant  a bag, pouch, or husk but by Middle English it had come to mean testicles. Somehow this is equivalent to the Old Norse word koddi, which meant pillow or scrotum. Confusion at bedtime, I would have thought.

How did a codpiece become something that holds up shelves? With very little imagination at all. A bracket describes an architectural member that stands out at right angles from the wall and often supports a shelf or beam. Lets say no more or we shall find ourselves deeply in the realm of double entendre.

The rise of bracket

So is the transformation of bracket from a codpiece to a piece of hardware for supporting shelves a more favourable or less favourable connotation? Is it melioration or deterioration?

Changing from being something that is sexy, if perhaps a little vulgar, to something more mundane but certainly more respectable is neither more favourable nor more negative. One minute you are the very epitomy of renaissance manhood the next you are a piece of hardware for holding up a kitchen shelf. Sounds very much like middle-agedness.