Does this mean that Arnold Zwicky does not agree with the idea that a terrible childhood explains terrible adult behaviour?
The persistence of the Etymological Fallacy among intellectuals is insome ways deeply puzzling. When considering aspects of culture other than language — practices, customs, attitudes, beliefs, values, and so on — intellectuals tend to fix on things that have held constant through history, things parallel to the English word for ‘head’. Cultural historians, for instance, will tend to see certain modern American attitudes as rooted in, and continuous with, aspects of the early American experience, like beginning a new life in a strange land and having an apparently limitless frontier to settle. Isolated survivals are fascinating, but they are not appealed to as ways of illuminating or explaining the present by the past.
I think that it is interesting to see how people change the use and meanings of words. I also agree with Zwicky that the etymology of a word doesn’t really help with the meanings and usage of current words.