or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Saturday, August 26, 2006


Here is an amusing look at the evolution of the speech balloon, from angels emitting long ribbons of words as they tell the Virgin Mary she's up the stump to those rounded, pointy-bottomed bubbles as Cathy says "Ack!"

About three quarters of the way down the page is a word I'd never seen before--or more accurately a spelling I'd never seen before, pre-dictionary, before spelling was standardized: "cungerer".

A few seconds' worth of tossing it about in my brain revealed it to be "conjurer", which is fascinating even when spelled in the modern fashion. It's self-evidently Latin, and the first syllable is the familiar "con-", "with, together". But what about the rest? The whole is from "coniurare", "to swear together", and that's the key: the second part, "iurare", "to swear", and if you know that "i" and "j" in Latin were the same thing, you can quickly tease out that that's the source of the English word "jury", a group of people who swear an oath, not to mention "abjure" ("to recant", literally "to swear away") and"adjure" ("to entreat"). Longer words are also compounded straight from Latin from the root of "iurare", which is "iur-", "law": "juridical" and "jurisdiction, for instance, from "iur-" and "dicere", "to say" (the root of such English words as "diction"), and "jurisprudence", "ius-" plus "prudentia", "knowledge".

Yes, "prudence" actually means "knowing", though its meaning has been specialized over the centuries into "circumspect wisdom or carefulness". And "prudence" is, again, fascinating: it's from Latin "prudens", which is from "providens", a participle of "providere", "to provide for", so a prudent person is someone who's planning for the future. (As I noted before, however, "prudence" and "prude" are unrelated.)


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