I was never much for The Killers when they became popular in 2004. But I decided to give their first album, Hot Fuss, a listen or three last week. It was better than I had remembered, though I don't think they'll make it into my regular rotation. In one song, "All These Things That I've Done," the line "I got soul, but I'm not a soldier," is repeated several times. That caught the ear of my inner word nerd, and I wondered if soul and soldier had a common etymology that the Killers were cleverly using to express their angst.
Here are the etymologies, from Webster's New World:
- Soul: From the Middle English soule, from the Old English sawol, akin to the German seele and the Gothic saiwala, from the Germanic saiwalo,* literally that belonging to the sea (from saiwa-, meaning sea): from the early Germanic belief that souls originate in and return to the sea. (*The etymology notes that the Germanic part is unverified, but I thought it was interesting.)
- Soldier: from the Middle English soldiour, from the Old French soldier, from solde, meaning coin, pay, from the Late Latin solidus, literally meaning solid and figuratively meaning coin.
(Despite today's discovery that I have access to the OED again, its etymologies in these cases were needlessly complex for my purposes.)