arms

“Arms” — meaning guns — is not a metaphor for the kind of arms attached to most people’s shoulders.

It’s surprising, I know. I was all ready to tell you about how it’s no wonder people get really upset when they feel like their “right to bear arms” is in danger because when you call guns “arms,” it’s very easy to start thinking of them as extensions of your body, and no one likes to be told what to do with his or her body. Good thing I consulted a dictionary first!

Because it turns out the arms on your body and the ones you use to kill things at a distance come from two completely different old words that just happen to sound the same to us in present-day English.

When I realized my mistake, I almost abandoned this post on the spot. But I can’t be the only person who thinks of fleshy arms when I hear about deadly ones. And if a lot of other people do too, doesn’t arms become a metaphor for arms, even if our word-using ancestors didn’t mean it that way?

I don’t know the answer to this question.