Monday, October 24, 2005


Etymologies and Word Coinages

Matthew Scully, Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy (New York: St. Martin's, 2002), p. 55:
I knew that "venison" and "veneration" come from a common root, but this is still an awful lot of baggage to lay on one deer.
When I read that, I thought, "No way. They look superficially similar, but I'll bet they have different roots." But Scully is indeed correct.

See Calvert Watkins, Indo-European Roots, in The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, s.v. wen- (to desire, strive for):
8. Suffixed form *wen-es- in: a. Latin venus, love: VENERATE, VENEREAL, VENERY1, VENUS.

11. Lengthened-grade form *wēn-ā- in Latin vēnārī, to hunt: VENATIC, VENERY2, VENISON.
Scully also coins a useful word (p. 84):
The hubris of it is staggering, but they hardly seem serious enough souls to deserve such a weighty word, guilty at worst of a dopey arrogance we might call boobris.
Boobris is inspired, reminiscent of H.L. Mencken's booboisie.

Scully used to write speeches for president George W. Bush. Yesterday on television I heard the President coin what seems to be a new word. He was talking about illegal immigrants, and he said that they just wanted to "embetter their lives." I suspect that his words were impromptu. I doubt that a professional wordsmith would coin such an ugly and unnecessary word.

A friend sent me Scully's well-written and well-argued book as a gift. Thanks again, my friend.

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