Weird Words #6: Tell

We writers tell stories. Some of us tell tales. All told, some tell tall tales.

There seems to be an association throughout European languages between the consonants T and L in that order, and notions of both counting and recounting.

Total is a classical Latin word meaning, perhaps unsurprisingly, a total.

Tell means to count, told and tale both come from early English, and are parts of the same verb.

Tally comes from the Latin word for a yardstick.

Till (meaning cashbox) shares its origin with Toll (meaning fare or tax)

This t-l association is found in proto-indo-european; Old French, Old High German, Old English, Classical Latin, Classical Greek.

It seems to be telling that what novellists do is recount. I think it well worthy of the note of editors that our language equates the communication of a story to the communication of an account or inventory. There might be a cognitive sense of completeness in the delivery of a good story, and the editor might well see himself as an auditor.

Curiously, those two words have very different histories.

Editor is one who issues, puts forth, publishes
Auditor is one who listens (the intended sense of listening to check for completeness was used in this sense even in Roman times.)

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