Ghost Stories

Ghost+Stories

GRAPHIC ILLUSTRATION BY ESMÉ BLEECKER-ADAMS

By MICHELLE LAI and JILL RICE

The Evolution of the Word ‘Ghost’

•The Oxford English Dictionary shows that the word “ghost” is of West Germanic origin and appears in Old English as “gást,” meaning “soul or spirit.”

•While the noun has been used since A.D. 900, the verb has only been used since 1616, appearing in William Shakespeare’s Antony & Cleopatra: “Julius Caesar/Who at Phillippi the good Brutus ghosted.” The verb here means “to haunt as an apparition.”

•Beginning in the late 1800s, the word came to describe a sailing vessel and its ability to “make relatively good progress when there is very little wind,” which is similar to a ghost that sweeps through a house without help from external forces.

•In the late 1900s, it was largely associated with ghostwriting when a person wrote for someone else without claiming credit for their own work, essentially acting as a “ghost” by disappearing from the next steps of publication.

•Today, to “ghost” someone is to end all forms of contact with another person after you have established a connection with them, encouraging them to eventually stop contacting you. The first of seven entries on Urban Dictionary defines it as “to avoid someone until they get the picture and stop contacting you.”

Sources: Oxford English Dictionary, Urban Dictionary

Ghosting Through the Ages

c. 1900 to 1600 B.C.

The first recorded instance of ghosting is from a letter written on a stone tablet in Akkadian, a language related to Sumerian. The writer mentions that the receiver has not responded time and again to his letters.

Illustration by Jill Rice

“I write to you again and again and you pay no attention to me.”

2019

Submission in response to our 10/11 newsletter request for “ghost” stories:

“I went on a date with someone who had recently moved to the country from Ireland. We talked about many things, including how hard it was for him to meet people his age since he was not currently in college. During the course of the meal, I realized we had some fundamental differences, so we talked about them and then decided we would be just friends. I offered to introduce him to my friends so he would know more people in the area and he came over to my apartment to meet my roommates. After he left, he texted me that he definitely wanted to meet up again soon, and a few days later I invited him over to have dinner with my roommates that Friday. He accepted my invitation, but then texted me the next day asking if I could find out if my roommate would be interested in dating him. She wasn’t and he didn’t answer me after I let him know. My roommates and I had a great time without him at dinner that Friday and I never saw him again. He later liked my roommate on Hinge and tried to follow her Instagram. She has successfully avoided him thus far.”