or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Tuesday, July 26, 2005


I've been thinking about Sunday's posting and would like to note that "mongerer" isn't an impossible construction: there are quite a few words in English that end in "-erer". These words fall into one of four categories:

1) a form of a word that ends in "-ery" (or "-ry", which amounts to the same thing), such as "laundry/launder/launderer" or "adultery/adulterer":
2) the comparative form of a word that ends in "-er", such as "bitterer" and "tenderer", or "-ere", such as "serer" and "austerer";
3) a form of a word that just happens to already end in "-er" when that ending is not the verb-into-noun "one who" suffix, such as "murder/murderer" or "cater/caterer";
4) a form of a word that ends in "-eer", such as comparative adjective "queerer" or verb-into-noun "sneerer".

"Mongerer", however, fits into none of these categories and is still wrong.


One of the words in the third category is "philanderer", which is extremely interesting because the literal meaning is, or ought to be, the opposite of its meaning in English. A philanderer is a man who cheats on a woman; the usual synonym is "womanizer" (although the OED lists as one meaning "a male flirt", which is adorable). "Philanderer" is an example of the third case above: we tacked "-er" meaning "one who" onto an existing word that just happened to end in "-er"--Philander, a classical reference to any (male) lover. But "philander" literally means "a lover of men", originally in a platonic sense (as it is in "philanthropist", which has an identical root); it seems to have taken on its historical meaning due to the strange mistranslation as "a (non-platonically) loving man". "Philander" in a sexual sense ought to refer to a woman (or a gay man) who's a little too into the gents, but instead it means a man who's a little too into the ladies.


Blogger Frank said...

You know, you're totally right about "philanderer"! Gee, I thought I'd never be able to be a "philanderer," but now I know that I'm the actual epitome of the word!

Wednesday, July 27, 2005 2:59:00 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home