or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Thursday, January 11, 2007


I enjoy reading James Howard Kunstler's blog, Clusterfuck Nation. I suspect he's generally right about the direction the world is headed: we've burnt up most of the oil we're ever going to have and as a consequence have doomed ourselves to a long, slow unraveling of society as we know it, due to the lack of cheap energy and the environmental changes this burning has wrought. I hope he's wrong, of course, and he does get things wrong, but let's say it doesn't look good for modern civilization.

Here's a sentence from his January prognostication:

The luck part of the story came partly from the weather -- there was barely any hurricane activity in US territory last year and global warming was so advanced that the northern states set records for warm winter temperatures -- which redounded into the fossil fuel part of the 2006 story.

"Redound" is such a great word, isn't it? Not quite archaic, but a bit musty for all that. (The OED dates it from 1382.) It means, in this context, "to have some consequence [towards]: to affect". I wouldn't have used "redounded into": "redounded to" is the usual formulation, which is why I noticed it.

I'm glad I did, too. You'll never guess where it comes from!

First, have a look at it. Play with the vowels--always a fun pastime. Does it look like any other word you might know? How about "redundant"? It turns out they're pretty much the same word.

Working backwards: "redundant" comes from Latin "redundare", "to overflow". This, in turn, comes from "re-", "again", plus "undare", "to surge", which is where such English words as "undulate" and "Undine" come from, not to mention French "onde", "wave". (A microwave oven in French is "un four à micro-ondes".) "Redound", on the other hand, is from Middle English "redounden", "to flow abundantly", from the same source. The two words have dramatically different meanings, but when you know where they come from you can get a sense of their relation to one another: the sense of motion or action that creates some effect, good or bad, in "redound", or that repeats itself until it becomes a nuisance, as "redundant".


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