Francine asked about the
word hamper. She wrote, “A
hamper is where I throw my dirty laundry, but it’s also a verb I use to
describe anything that blocks freedom of movement. How are they connected?”
Actually, they’re not
connected at all except by the accident of spelling. This happens more often
than people realize.
The noun hamper refers
to a large basket, usually made of wicker. It came from an Old French word, hanapier, which was a case built to hold a hanap, a drinking vessel or wine glass. In some
regions, a picnic basket is called a picnic hamper.
The verb to hamper means
to restrain or hold back. A definitive origin is elusive, but it seems to have
been first used in northern climes, such as regions near Iceland and Germany.
In those languages, earlier forms of hamper meant to block or clog.
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