I have said it before but it bears repeating. Words are sneaky things, not be be implicitly trusted. If you take your eye off of them for a while they change meanings on you.
Today's example is the word "elope".
The usage that most of us associate with the word is something like this:
Here we have a visual that sums it up. Dark of night. Ladder up against a second story window. Said window the room of a winsome maiden as identified by the pink fru-fru curtains. The implication is that her family - usually a blustering, shotgun toting Daddy - disapproves of the young man involved, and that the young couple will decamp forthwith to some jurisdiction where they can be married that very night by a Justice of the Peace who is willing to be rousted from a deep sleep to mumble through the minimal ceremony required.
Sometimes the image also includes a young lady in a bridal dress coming down the ladder. Sorry, but that's just silly. If you want to sneak away under cover of darkness you wear Ninja black, and not something with a long train you are going to trip over. And if you actually have a fairy tale wedding dress, well, neither parental approval or necessary funds appear to be lacking, now do they?
As to the word elope, there are various interpretations of its etymology. My most reliable sources trace it back to the 1590s and a Middle Dutch word ontlopen. This means to run away from, and likely derives from hlaupan an earlier Germanic word that means to run but also give us lope (to run with a long bounding stride) and leap (obvious meaning and connection). The French word aloper is probably derived from the German source, and being French is a bit naughtier. The original meaning was to run away from your husband with your lover.
But here in the astonishing but slightly silly 21st century, eloping does not mean what it meant a generation or so back. Essentially there are no young ladies who are required to get Daddy's permission to marry, and one wonders just how many are deterred by even the carefully phrased, modern sensibility versions of paternal misgivings.
A delightful young lady of our acquaintance recently was telling us about a friend of hers who "eloped" because it was cheaper and less bother than doing the whole elaborate ritual that has become a modern Wedding. And it seems as if this has become, while I was looking elsewhere, a Big Deal.
There are "elopement packages" offered by exotic venues and destinations. So much for the whole "can't afford to get married" line of reasoning....you are going to Paris! There are blogs with practical advice. There are elopement checklists (HERE is one that includes ring, dress, flowers, photographer, attendants and music, but inexplicably leaves the ladder out altogether). There are - please shed a tear for modern civilization - Elopement Planners.
Ah, well. My researches have saddled me with the odd vision of a bride and groom running across a darkened lawn in great loping strides as attendants throw rice and the photographer takes a lot of shots with a powerful flash. A flower girl holds a bouquet of glow sticks. Muted music plays in the background so as not to disturb the neighbors. A reception follows at the local Perkins which is open 24 hours a day.
Not that you were asking, but as an aside, consider the word antelope. Graceful creatures they both lope and leap with proficiency. Clearly a related word? Nah, not even close. The word comes from anthelops a semi-mythical beast first mentioned by Eusebius of Antioch circa 336 AD. They were savage creatures living somewhere out past Mesopotamia. They were said to be very difficult to catch and could saw down trees with their horns.