or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Nothing in Common

Sometimes you look at a word and it triggers something, and you think of another word and feel sure they must be related. Sometimes you're right: sometimes you're wrong.

"Committee" has to be related to "comity", obviously. The meanings, while not the same, are tangentially or metaphorically related to one another: "a delegation of people in charge of something" and "social harmony". How disappointing it is to discover that they're complete strangers to one another, "committee" emerging from the Latin for "to commit" and "comity" from Latin "comis", "friendly".

Well surely, then, "comity" is related somehow to "comedy" or "comic". It just makes sense. Once again, nope. "Comic" as an adjective is from the Latin "comicus", with the same meaning. (And that, in turn, is from Greek "komikos", from "komos", "a revel".) "Comedy" has the same Greek root, "komos", plus "aoidos", "singer", turning into "komoidos", "comic actor", and then into Latin as "comedia".

On closer inspection, anyway, "committee" is the odd one out of this trio of words, since it's assembled out of a word plus a prefix--"com-", meaning "with", plus Latin "mittere", "to send". We still have a number of English words that use this verb, including "admit", "to send towards", "remit", "to send back", and "transmit", "to send across".


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