It’s a good old Anglo Saxon word, but it did not mean to grow angry, scowling, waiting the chance to strike. It meant, simply,  to boil.  Why didn’t the Anglo Saxons say  boil if they meant  boil? Or  bo’ll,  if they were from Southwark? Or  berl, if they were from Brooklyn-on-the-Thames? They hadn’t been invaded by the French, that’s why. I suppose that English stewards cooking (a French word) soup (a French word) for their dukes (a French word) would boil it—seething with resentment.  Boil  comes from a stock of Latin / Romance words having to do with bubbling over: an  ebullient  man is the life of the party.

Word of the Day The old meaning of the word is preserved in the King James account of the manna from heaven: “Bake that which ye will bake today, and seethe that which ye will seethe” (Ex. 16:23). The past tense form wasn’t  seethed , but  sod (!): “And Jacob sod  pottage; and Esau came from the field, and he was faint” (Gen. 25:29). That didn’t mean that Jacob sprinkled dirt into the stew. He  sod  the stew in a pot: he  boiled  it.

Strangely enough, we don’t have the old past form, but we do still have the past participle:  sodden.  But we don’t use it to mean  boiled.  Something is  sodden  when it is wet all through, usually miserably so: “I couldn’t wait to take off those sodden clothes.” Not boiled clothes, but sodden, and so almost as bad.

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