Friday, April 10, 2009

What’s So Good About “Good Friday”?

I mean, really. Today it’s Good Friday. It’s a Christian holy day that for some reason also means that public schools, the New York Stock Exchange, the state of Indiana’s Bureau of Motor Vehicles, New Jersey’s state government offices, and all manner of other government-run institutions are closed.

Not that I’m complaining, but it is a head scratcher though to try and figure out a rhyme or reason for why some offices are closed and some are pretty much business as usual.

But that isn’t the only curious thing about Good Friday. I’ve always wondered why they call this particular Friday, the observation of the death of Jesus, “good.”

So naturally I googled it.

It seems no one really knows for sure where Good Friday got its odd name. Well that is par for the course for a religion that is nearly 2000 years old and with very hazy origins.

One line of thought is that Good Friday comes from God’s Friday or Gottes Freitag. That makes some sense. That jives with what I know about the etymology of “good-bye” which is a contraction of “God be with ye.”

And it makes sense in that all Fridays were considered holy in the early days of Christianity, with this one being special, being the Friday before Easter. The Friday of God.

But then there’s another school of thought that has it that Good Friday comes from good as in “holy.” The Christian Bible is sometimes referred to as the Good Book and the thought is that this phrase and Good Friday have the same origins from German. That is, originating from the German words Gute Freitag, where gute is a word for “holy.”

So that makes sense, too.

All of this just underscores what an odd language we have. We have words of unknown (in these days) origin, words no one uses anymore, and words made from nonsense. Really it surprises me that as a nation we communicate so well with such an inadequate tool like the English language.

And conversely, it should come as no surprise that communication using the English language is the origin of most of our problems.


Tony said...

Hal, undoubtedly one of your best blogs ever.

John Coby said...

NASA will be taking Ramadan off.