As of the moment when I’m writing this, we’re awaiting a few fun deliveries at our house–a new bed frame and desk for Rowyn, who has been asking for about a year to update his room. We decided that starting high school was a pretty good time to get rid of the loft-bed-with-sliding-board he got when he was 5 (it was SO COOL then…but, yeah, not so useful or cool for a 14.5-year-old!) and trade out the desk he and David cobbled together from a broken bookcase into a desk (upon Rowyn’s request, mind you) for something a little sturdier.
Of course, this being me, I can’t look at desks without wondering about the word desk. So now you get to wonder too. 😉
Upon looking it up, the first thing I learned is that desk and disk are actually very closely related, from the same root: the Greek diskos, which turned into the Latin discus. Both of these mean exactly what you would expect when you consider that root: a round, flat surface, a platter.
A…platter? We write on a platter?
Yup. I personally never think of a desk as round, but the earliest desks were in fact … wait for it … a table. (DUH.) And tables being round is no surprise at all. So the evolution of the word begins to make sense. From “platter” we moved into “flat, round surface,” and from “flat, ROUND surface” we moved into “flat surface suitable for writing” by the mid-1300s, courtesy of Medieval Latin. (Which is to say, those doing the writing were likely church clerics who still used Latin.)
By 1797, it was used figuratively to mean “office or clerical work.” Desk-work (exactly what it sounds like) joined the language in the 1820s. The term desk job began being used by 1900. By 1918 it was being applied to departments within a large organization responsible for a particular thing–think help desk. A reception desk has been noted from about 1960.
Do you have a desk in your house? Do you use it often? (I spend most of my life at my desk, it seems, LOL.)