Mystery through spelling

Owen Barfield, in tracing the history of the word “genius” (from which comes “ingenious” and “engine”) notes that from it we also get the word “genie”. That’s the kind of genie that might live inside a magic lamp by the way.

He mentions in passing that using the Arabic spelling “djinn” can infuse it with the “deepened strength and mystery of the older word”. It harkens back to the root word’s supernatural origin (God-given skills), instead of the more contemporary, strictly intellectual meaning of the root. We process these kinds of subtle metaphors in language usually without thinking. There is so much wrapped up words. These are little clues into what makes poetry (and to a lesser extent prose) potent (or not).