or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


Sometimes online dictionaries make you do all the work. Sometimes that's kind of fun, at least if you're me.

We went to see "300" last weekend, and it wasn't really all that good (we were mostly in it for the eye candy), but it did spur me to read more about Greek history, about which I knew shamefully little (my interest has always been in Roman history, for no particular reason that I can think of). If you haven't seen "300", this is more or less the movie in a nutshell:

except that the men had more obviously been to the gym and the hairstylist. Also, they were wearing leatherette hot pants. (Click on it for more detail, if you like.)

In case you've heard just enough about "300" to think that the Spartans were unstoppable except, eventually, by a horde of bloodthirsty Persians several thousand times their number, you might like to know that at the Battle of Tegyra, an army of somewhere between one thousand and eighteen hundred Spartans was routed by a little 300-strong Theban army that consisted of, in essence, a hundred and fifty charioteers and their boyfriends. That's a version of "300" that might be more interesting than what made it to the screen.

Anyway. The word "vanquish" naturally shows up in the history of the Battle of Tegyra, and I naturally needed to know where it came from, and since I couldn't pick it apart on my own (it doesn't break down into recognizable parts), I headed for Answers.com, which says that it comes from Latin "vincere" through French. And that's it! It doesn't even say what "vincere" means! Thanks a bunch, guys. Answers, my ass.

Well, "vincere" calls to mind "evince", so naturally that was my next stop. (Anyone who doesn't think "evince" is out of luck: they're at a dead end and will have to go to a better dictionary.) "Evince", once again through Answers.com, is from Latin "evincere", "to prevail, prove". That's a step in the right direction, but since "evincere" is clearly the prefix "e-", which can mean "out of" or act as a simple intensifier, plus "vincere", we still don't have an answer. But at least we now Answers.com gives us a link to "evict", which may give us a clue.

"Evict" comes directly from the Latin, and as we expected, it's from "e-" plus "vincere", which, finally, is Latin for "to defeat". ("Vincere" is also the source of "victor, and also "convince", to defeat, or later win over, through argument, and from that "convict".)


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