This sends me not to GQ, but to the Online Etymology Dictionary:
influence (n.)Streaming ethereal power, eh? That sounds like something he's tried to do, oh, maybe years ago. Thank God — thank the stars — he couldn't.
late 14c., an astrological term, "streaming ethereal power from the stars acting upon character or destiny of men," from O.Fr. influence "emanation from the stars that acts upon one's character and destiny" (13c.), also "a flow of water," from M.L. influentia "a flowing in" (also used in the astrological sense), from L. influentem (nom. influens), prp. of influere "to flow into," from in- "into, in, on, upon" (see in- (2)) + fluere "to flow" (see fluent). Meaning "exercise of personal power by human beings" is from mid-15c.; meaning "exertion of unseen influence by persons" is from 1580s (a sense already in M.L., e.g. Aquinas). Under the influence "drunk" first attested 1866.
fluentFlowing, streaming, melting, welling up, swelling, boiling over, bubbling up... but when we say "fluent" these days, we're usually speaking about speaking: fluent speech. But this idea of fluency began with a word about bubbling up, not streaming down from the stars, and that ground-up flowing concept takes us to the fascinating word "bole":
1580s, "flowing freely" (of water, also of speech), from L. fluentem (nom. fluens) "lax, relaxed," figuratively "flowing, fluent," prp. of fluere "to flow, stream, run, melt," from PIE *bhleugw-, extended form of *bhleu- "to swell, well up, overflow" (cf. L. flumen "river;" Gk. phluein "to boil over, bubble up," phlein "to abound"), an extension of base *bhel- (2); see bole. Used interchangeably with fluid in Elizabethan times. Related: Fluently.
boleSwollen penis! Blossom! Pillow! Pimple! We've come to an odd spot on this etymological path. We begin with influence, which came from the stars, and we found our way to flowing water and then to a swelling tree trunk or phallus. Keep in mind that we are talking about politics.
early 14c., from O.N. bolr "tree trunk," from P.Gmc. *bulas (cf. M.Du. bolle "trunk of a tree"), from PIE *bhel- (2) "to blow, swell" (cf. Gk. phyllon "leaf," phallos "swollen penis;" L. flos "flower," florere "to blossom, flourish," folium "leaf;" O.Prus. balsinis "cushion;" O.N. belgr "bag, bellows;" O.E. bolla "pot, cup, bowl;" O.Ir. bolgaim "I swell," blath "blossom, flower," bolach "pimple," bolg "bag;" Bret. bolc'h "flax pod;" Serb. buljiti "to stare, be bug-eyed;" Serbo-Cr. blazina "pillow").
But this is a blog post, so I've got to stop now. Your turn to speak. Flow on, burst forth, see if you can influence anybody.