If it’s not true it should be

Dan here at UltiMAK told me recently that the word “understand” comes from building, or dwelling construction, long ago. If you were going to add a floor atop an existing structure, you would need to “understand” the structure so as to prevent catastrophic failure (that is to say; support with additional stands underneath). If your building collapsed, you failed to “understand”.

That would make our current usage another of the many euphemisms that we no longer know to be euphemisms (at least I never knew – maybe you all heard it before, or maybe it’s not true). It would also add a layer of perception to the word. If you fail to “understand” you failed to acquire, or to take the time to construct, the requisite foundation and lower level structure to support what you just saw or heard, and so it collapses in on you.

One thought on “If it’s not true it should be

  1. Etymology.com led me to the Old Endlish word “undergestandan”

    Which means “to put under/place beneath”
    But they only use that in reference to the literal meaning of the word…

    Also:
    Old English understandan “comprehend, grasp the idea of,” probably literally “stand in the midst of,” from under + standan “to stand” (see stand (v.)). If this is the meaning, the under is not the usual word meaning “beneath,” but from Old English under, from PIE *nter- “between, among” (cognates: Sanskrit antar “among, between,” Latin inter “between, among,” Greek entera “intestines;” see inter-). Related: Understood; understanding

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