What is “Weird,” Anyway?


The word ‘weird’ is generally used as a adjective. It’s defined by Webster (via Google, btw) as suggesting something supernatural, uncanny, very strange, or bizarre. But did you know that when used in Old English the word was actually a noun that meant “destiny?” Then as the word began to be used as an adjective in Middle English, it meant “in control of one’s destiny.”

I learned quite a lot while doing what I assumed would be a little bit of research about the definition and origin of this word. Come to find out, it’s modern definition appears to have been significantly influenced by the one and only William Shakespeare.

Apparently good ol’ Willy drew a shitload of inspiration from Holinshed’s Chronicals of blah blah, blah blah blah (I really can’t remember what the blah-blahs stand for, and it took a lot just to spell the dude’s name right, so I’m leaving it at that). But the bottom line is that that this Holinshed guy wrote a story about Macbeth. And in this story there were three “weird sisters.” These chicks were fairies. They are the ones who informed Macbeth of his destiny to one day be the Ruler or Whatever of Scotland. (Lord help me if a literary expert reads my crude interpretation of a very important part of a very important play. I’m aware I am making a mockery of this work with my laxidasical language. #Sorrynotsorry. Yep. I just hastagged that. I’m kind of embarrassed for myself…Okay. I’m rambling. Back to classic literature. You’re welcome.)

So these three fairies who informed Macbeth of his destiny were called the “Weird Sisters.” Makes sense since the term ‘weird’ meant “to be in control of one’s destiny,” right? Also, they were described by the Holinshed guy as wearing “strange and wild apparel resembling creatures of the elder world.”

Then Shakespeare, the captivating storyteller that he was, came along and decided that fairies weren’t cool enough. So he changed them to witches. They are still “weird” because they share with Macbeth his destiny to be King of All That Is Scottish. But they are basically described as ugly hags who dressed funny and were found doing not-so-normal things in the deep dark woods.

Based on this, I would assume that the word weird has come to represent someone or something that is abnormal, with an undercurrent of negativity, all because of Shakespeare and these three witches.

Maybe I’m right. Maybe not. But I do type the truth when I say that if you google the word ‘weird’ you will find that it’s origins are Germanic and it once meant “in control of ones destiny.” And quite frankly, I think that’s an awesome introduction to this series.

I want to tell you about the weird within me and the weird I have seen within each of us. We are ALL weird. We are all VERY strange or bizarre in some way. Also, WE ARE ALL IN CONTROL OF OUR OWN DESTINY.

*Please note that my sources include the ever-reliable Google and Wikipedia, and my subsequent interpretations/opinions. I’m neither a linguist nor a historian, so take my thoughts for what they’re worth: my most educated guesses. Cheers.

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