Sylvia wrote, “I grew up
near Rogers City, the location of a huge limestone quarry. At the same time, my
Uncle Henry, who was an avid hunter, used to refer to the quarry that he was
going to kill when he went hunting. It confused me then and it still does, so
I’m glad I stumbled across your program. Can you clear this up for me?”
One of the more
confusing things about language is that words that end up with identical
spellings can have absolutely no connection to each other, either in origin or
meaning. Such is the case here.
In one case, quarry is a
surface excavation where stone is removed for building or construction
purposes. It owes its existence to a Latin word that meant to square off. Blocks of quarry material are cut, blasted, or
otherwise removed, then refined into squareness.
In the other case,
quarry refers to prey, an animal pursued and taken in a hunt. Originally, it
designated the chunks of meat taken from an animal and given to the hounds as a
reward for their work. The meat was placed on the deer’s hide, and that’s where
this quarry came from – a Latin word meaning an animal hide.
To further complicate
things, quarry can also refer to a small diamond-shaped pane of glass.
Occasionally, the pane can be square, so we’re back to the first Latin word
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