or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

All By Myself

Sometimes the most obvious connections are just staring you in the face and you can't even see them.

Before shaving my face today, I used Clinique for Men Face Scrub, which is a terrific product, and happened to read on the tube the following Italian:

Privo di profumo al 100%

Now, it pretty obviously means "100% Fragrance Free". What got my attention was the word "privo", since, instead of the "free" that English-language advertisers so adore, it was saying, in essence, "deprived of"; "privo" and "deprivation" clearly share a common ancestor. And then it occurred to me that "private" does, too, and I couldn't believe I had missed such a connection, and I also naturally wondered just how they were connected. (It's easy enough to miss the relationship between "private" and "deprivation", because the first and third syllables are stressed in "deprivation", neatly obscuring the "privat-" root: but how had I missed "private" and "deprive"?)

The link isn't quite as straightforward as I had guessed. My assumption was that if you're deprived of company--that is, you've had it taken away--then you're in private. As it turns out, this was more or less completely backwards.

"Privus" is the Latin word for "alone", which is obviously where "private" comes from, particularly since "-ate" is such a common adjectival ending in English ("console/disconsolate", for example). We didn't just make up the "-ate" ending, though; it too comes to us from Latin, in this case in the form of "privatus".

"Deprive" is, as I should have guessed, an after-formation, because it's from "privus' plus the prefix "de-", "away from". "Privus" in this case is at one remove from the original meaning, because "privare" came in Latin to mean "to rob".

It should be obvious that "privy" comes from "private", since that's where you most want to be alone, but "privilege" also comes from that root, since a privilege is something that you alone have--literally, "private law", as "privilege" descends from "privus" and "lex".


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