This morning, out of the welter of vague half-formed thoughts that ran through my head as I woke up, the first coherent one was something like this:
Is litter as in trash cognate with litter as in a bunch of puppies born at once?
I decided to look it up, and then I began composing this entry in my head, and then I thought:
…and while I’m at it, what’s the origin of welter?
And then I thought:
…and if welter isn’t the word I mean, then what about miasma?
So I opened my MW11 dictionary app, and here’s what I found:
All of the meanings of litter (including two I hadn’t thought of: a mobile chair for carrying a passenger, and the material that goes in a cat’s litter box) derive “from Anglo-French litere, from lit bed, from Latin lectus.” So what all of those things have in common is beds, of one sort or another.
Welter was indeed the word I wanted: “a chaotic mass or jumble.” It’s from “Middle English; akin to Middle Dutch welteren to roll,” and is related to voluble in that both are connected to Latin volvere, to roll.
Miasma isn’t really the word I wanted, but it’s still a great word. It goes back to Greek miasma, “defilement, from miainein to pollute.”