The Invitation: Are You Living In Flatland?

flatland (n.)

1735, from flat (adj.) + land (n.). Edwin Abbott’s popular book about an imaginary two-dimensional world was published in 1884.

Entries linking to flatland

c. 1300, “stretched out (on a surface), prostrate, lying the whole length on the ground;” mid-14c., “level, all in one plane; even, smooth;” of a roof, “low-pitched,” from Old Norse flatr “flat,” from Proto-Germanic *flata- (source also of Old Saxon flat “flat, shallow,” Old High German flaz “flat, level,” Old High German flezzi “floor”), from PIE root *plat- “to spread.”

From c. 1400 as “without curvature or projection.” Sense of “prosaic, dull” is from 1570s, on the notion of “featureless, lacking contrast.” Used of drink from c. 1600; of women’s bosoms by 1864. Of musical notes from 1590s, because the tone is “lower” than a given or intended pitch. As the B of the modern diatonic scale was the first tone to be so modified, the “flat” sign as well as the “natural” sign in music notation are modified forms of the letter b (rounded or square).

Flat tire or flat tyre is from 1908. Flat-screen (adj.) in reference to television is from 1969 as a potential technology. Flat-earth (adj.) in reference to refusal to accept evidence of a global earth, is from 1876.land (n.)

Old English londland, “ground, soil,” also “definite portion of the earth’s surface, home region of a person or a people, territory marked by political boundaries,” from Proto-Germanic *landja- (source also of Old Norse, Old Frisian Dutch, Gothic land, German Land), perhaps from PIE *lendh- (2) “land, open land, heath” (source also of Old Irish land, Middle Welsh llan “an open space,” Welsh llan “enclosure, church,” Breton lann “heath,” source of French lande; Old Church Slavonic ledina “waste land, heath,” Czech lada “fallow land”). But Boutkan finds no IE etymology and suspects a substratum word in Germanic,

Etymological evidence and Gothic use indicates the original Germanic sense was “a definite portion of the earth’s surface owned by an individual or home of a nation.” The meaning was early extended to “solid surface of the earth,” a sense which once had belonged to the ancestor of Modern English earth (n.). Original senses of land in English now tend to go with country. To take the lay of the land is a nautical expression. In the American English exclamation land’s sakes (1846) land is a euphemism for Lord.