August long weekend a perfect time to campaign for champagne while camping

Fun with etymology! 🙂

If you’re one of those people who packs like a weekend warrior every time you head on a camping trip, you can blame the English language.

Those word-birthing Romans conquered half of Europe around the year zero and everywhere they went, they saw only open countryside: what they called campus.

Centuries later, English speakers borrowed that word intact to describe the open spaces at a university or other big organization.

Every spring, the Roman army left the safety of cities and towns to live and fight in the open countryside — they went on campaign.

The army slept in tents, so English eventually borrowed the word to describe any person’s trip to sleep in the countryside as camping.

Roman gladiators also fought and trained in the campus, and so fighters or top soldiers came to be called campiones, which entered English as champion.

The losers could always leave the camp. Roman soldiers who did so were said to ex-campare, which English speakers mispronounce as scampering.

All those words — campus, campaign, camping and champion — come from the same root word.

Some 1,914 years after Caesar Augustus founded the Roman Empire, British soldiers queued to visit the camp prostitutes during the First World War. As they waited, they chatted about how the women slathered on the makeup to obscure any natural deficits in personal beauty — they were campy. Being British, the soldiers soon started to dress like the ladies, and they were called camp. Later, the word probably spilled over to also describe some gay men.


Finally, if you really want to celebrate etymology, bring a bottle of champagne camping with you. Its full name is vin de Champagne, from that same campus root, and it means wine in the countryside.


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