Glasses or spectacles - what's in a word?
Words and their usage are always going in and out of fashion, of course, but It's interesting to take a look and how and why the word glasses has become so much more popular than spectacles.
Most people think of glasses as the modern term while spectacles sound just a little bit old-fashioned. They couldn't be more wrong. It turns out that things are exactly the other way round.
Research shows, for example, that more than five as many people type the word 'glasses repair' into a search engine than use the term 'spectacles repair' and no-one in the world ever refers to sunglasses as 'sunspectacles'.
Many sources claim that the word glasses probably derives from the word spyglass, an early word for the telescope and that it then probably adapted to "a pair of eyeglasses" when two lenses were joined together and held up to the eyes for full effect.
Unfortunately, the Oxford English Dictionary shows the term eye-glass being first used in 1768 while the word glasses was being used to describe eyewear as early as 1545, more than 200 years earlier.
Even more of a shock is that the word 'goggles', which many presume to have come into use much later, is a word that was used in middle English around 1350 as 'gogelen' — a sideways look — hence the common expression 'to look agog' and the use of the word goggles for wraparound eyewear.
So the word glasses is much older than spectacles and it almost certainly derives from the material that was used to make them. The old English word 'glaes', the term for a glass drinking vessel.
The earliest forms of the modern glasses, or spectacles, were probably manufactured by the Venetian glass blowers in the 14th century who fitted optical lenses into frames made of horn.
The word glasses to describe a pair of lenses set in a frame resting on the nose and ears used to correct or assist defective eyesight becomes common usage in the 1660s.
The use of the word spectacles seems to have been adopted in the 18th century and comes from the Latin 'spectare', to observe or to look at.
So it would seem that the word 'glasses' wase once the old-fashioned term while the word 'spectacles' was the new boy on the block.
Nowadays, hardly anyone uses the term spectacles in modern speech. Even a professional specialist will ask when you wish to "pick up your new glasses".
Yet strangely the shortened form of 'specs' for spectacles appearing to be making a comeback — look at shop signs and big-name brands like Specsavers.
Whatever you choose to call them, glasses, specs, eyewear or goggles, they have grown from the rudimentary lenses strung together with wire frames to become modern must-have fashion accessories.
Sunglasses, in particular, are a modern day fashion item on everyone's shopping list. Innovation and technological advances have made them light, stylish and above all highly protective of the eyes.
New materials and access to global markets have also made it an open-day for up-and-coming designers, while the growth in eyewear as a fashion accessory means that glasses can be worn even by those with perfect eyesight.
Nowadays people buy glasses (spectacles if you prefer) to match the clothes and the occasion, for the office and for the office party. And, if they ever need an overhaul or even a glasses repair, people need to look no further than AlphaOmega.