or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Friday, December 16, 2005


A recent typo in Boingboing led to a very interesting batch of words.

The article, about evil bait-and-switch camera-store douchebags in New York, contains this sentence:

Don Wiss (a photographer in Brooklyn who has posted galleries of the mailing addresses that are listed as the store locations of Brooklyn's fraud-stores) went and took some pictures of the storefront for PriceRitePhoto (another company that previously threatened to have a blogger who posted about his negative experiences with the company arrested), a graffiti-scrawled, semi-derilict building in Brooklyn with no evidence of any kind of legitimate retail operation.

I like the big, sprawling sentence, but I don't like the spelling "derilict", which is wrong. It's "derelict", which is obvious (to someone like me, anyway) because it contains the word "relic", to which it is related.

Well, how are they related? Through, unsurprisingly, Latin. Both words derive from "relinquare", which itself is the suffix "re-" plus "linquare", "to leave". This word is also, obviously, the source of "relinquish", "to let go". "Relinquare" also carried the sense of "to leave behind", which is the meaning of both "relic", something left to us from an earlier time, and "derelict", something abandoned.

Now, here's what's really remarkable (to me). The Indo-European root for this word also led to the Greek word "lepein", also meaning "to leave". The prefix "ek-" is akin to the Latin prefix "ex-", meaning "out", so Greek "eklepein" means "something left out". And does "eklepein" resemble any English word you might know? It's the source of "eclipse"! Its root means "to be left out", which eventually led to a metaphorically related sense, "to fail to appear", which is a little strange to me--something eclipsed didn't fail to appear, but instead appeared and was later obscured or overshadowed by something bigger. Language is full of such mysteries.


Post a Comment

<< Home