or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Monday, February 27, 2006


I was watching Drawn Together on the Comedy Channel last night--yeah, it's coarse and vulgar and very hit-or-miss, but it's also pretty funny--and noticed that they've fixed their little problem, which is to say the warning screens that say the equivalent of "This show shouldn't be watched by anyone who doesn't like this sort of show." (They originally said "This program contains coarse language and mature themes that is not suitable for younger audiences": the "that" has been replaced by "and", which makes it grammatically correct.)


When I was thinking of a title, the word "reparation" came to mind, but then I didn't know if it actually meant "repair". I knew if probably does, but it doesn't have to: there are three "-pair" roots in English with different sources and drastically different meanings. ("Despair" doesn't count, because its root isn't "-pair" but "-spair", from Latin "sperare", "to hope": it's related to French "espoir", "hope", so to be in despair is to be de-hoped.) "Reparation", and I was very relieved to learn this, is in fact related to "repair": it's from the Latin "parare", "to prepare", "to put in order", and so to repair something is to "re-prepare" it for further use, and to make reparations is to compensate for something which was literally or, more often, metaphorically broken.

The other two roots are exemplified by "impair", which is from Latin "peiorare", "to make worse", which also manifests itself in "pejorative", and "pair", which is also (of course!) from Latin, this time "par", "equal", which has many offspring including "peer" and "compare".

You may find it interesting to know that French also has the word "impair", but it's nothing like the English version; it's completely unrelated, in every sense. Descending from the same root as our "par/pair" with the negating affix "im-" at the front, it means "odd" as in "an odd number"--it's the opposite of "pair", which means "even" in French. And of course our even numbers are even because they can be divided into two halves--equal piles, if you like--with nothing left over, and French numbers are "pair"--that is, "equal"--for exactly the same reason.


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