Apropos of positively nothing:

I was thinking just now about -aholic as our kludgy suffix for addiction, as in workaholic, chocoholic, danceaholic, Brookaholic (okay, that last one isn’t real). I figured that it must have come originally from alcoholic, but alcohol doesn’t match up with my spotty recollection of Greek and Latin. Briefly, I wondered (given the al-) if the word wasn’t originally Arabic.

Lo and behold, it is. It comes from the Arabic al-kuhul, or “the kohl,” which was ground ore used as mascara. Later it generalized to mean something like the pure substance of anything, including liquids, and it only acquired its modern sense in the 18th c or so.

Kohl comes from kahala, to paint or stain. Given the aversion to rhetoric as a merely decorative art that stretches back to antiquity, I begin now to understand certain rhetors’ obsession with beer.

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