One of my favorite things I ever came across at the MET museum. Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-1879) is, arguably, one of the greatest portraitists in the history of photography. This photo is called The Parting of Guinivere and Lancelot, 1874.
I was reading the other day that it was believed that using the Proto-Indo-European word for bears (which evolved into the Latin ‘ursus’ and the Greek ‘arktos’) would summon one to wreck your shit, so the Germanic people speaking Old English would use ‘bruin’ or ‘brown one’ as a euphemism. The original word is now completely lost because of it.
Eh… “completely lost” is a bit of a fudge. In the sense that most of the history of English is unrecorded in writing, most “original words” are now lost, which is kind of a silly thing to say. The English (Germanic) word for bear is clearly not related to the PIE root *rtko, so in that sense, yes, the word that would have come down to us as something like ~arthur~(bear) doesn’t exist. But we *do* know what that would have been (~arthur, artho, erthu~ ) had it not been replaced by a euphemism among the Germanic people. So it’s “lost” only in the sense that proto-Germanic is “lost” or, hey, it’s not lost at all, it’s been in Wales this whole time.