“Now put on your parasuit!” announced my young friend as he typed the line into the science fiction book he’s writing. This book has taken many shapes and forms since I first met him, but here’s what it has come down to - he’s writing a chapter book which he eventually plans to turn into a graphic novel series. I’m not the brains behind the operation (underqualified for that job!). I am The Organizer. We started with him writing his ideas on post-it notes, then moved to creating an outline in the form of chapters, and finally, to filling in the chapters. Besides being The Organizer, I have also been The Scribe. My friend dictated, I typed. But now he controls the whole meeting from being the Zoom host to using his Google Doc instead of mine, and to dictating and typing. He’s a talented kid and I love how he’s taken 100% ownership of the project. My job now is merely an audience member throwing out the occasional idea or word. I’m Higgins to his Jimmy Fallon, Ed MacMahon to his Johnny Carson.
“Now put on your parasuit!” Hmmmmm. Something seemed a little off to me but I couldn’t put my finger on it. My friend Tralice has been joining us lately. She’s great at helping move the story along when it hits the occasional quagmire. She’s also a partner in crime when it comes to word study. “I think you mean parachute,” she said to our young friend. Ahhhhh! The word was so close and made sense that I didn’t pick up on it. It’s his fantasy novel, so he can make any word he wants. Tralice and I were instantly intrigued and began pulling the word apart to determine if a parachute or a parasuit would be better for going through a wormhole. Our young friend? Not so intrigued. But he’s such a polite young man that he sat quietly while us two hens cackled over the word.
I turned the word around in my brain. <chute> like something that funnels you along and throws you out. Okay, I can see that. <para> - often meaning “resembles” or “abnormal” or “alongside of”. That didn’t seem to make sense. Tralice and I summoned Mr. Merriam and Mr. Webster on our computers. Here’s what they had to say about <parachute>, “borrowed from French, from para- (as in parasol PARASOL) + chute "fall". Aha! A loan word! The French are at it again. The <ch> spelling of “sh” gives away its French ancestry. But wait, what is this? Is that a link to <parasol> the Messieurs Merriam and Webster have left for me in their entry for <parachute>?! I can never resist their links. Oh là là!
To my delight, <para> had a totally different meaning than I was familiar with. <parasol> - “screen or canopy shielding from the sun” which was taken from Italian and ultimately tracing back to Latin. <sole> mneaning “sun” and <para> meaning "(it) shields, keeps out". Ohhhhhh! That’s like a shiny new toy. Something I want to play with. Where else has this new-to-me <para> been hiding all my life? Maintenant! Time to find other relatives. Alons!
There are only two other immediate family members.
para + pet → parapet - a wall or rampart rising breast high, <pet> is related to pectoral
Para + bell + um→ a brand of semi automatic pistol, <bellum> meaning war in Latin
So put on your parasuit or parachute, put up your parasol, and stand behind the parapet, you’re going to need protection! ~We are going to go through the wormhole! The three boys didn’t see anything until a giant, sideways tornado appeared out of their window. Now, this is where the big adventure starts. ~excerpt from Tapeana, Book One, The End of Earth, by Kiing