or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Friday, September 07, 2007

Love/Hate Relationship

Today I was listening to some Handel arias, and there's Cecilia Bartoli singing some insanely rapid, difficult piece I'd never heard before. I checked the title, which was "Un pensiero nemico di pace", which I tried to translate, despite the fact that I really don't know any Italian: it seemed straightforward enough. "Un pensiero" means "a thought", I knew, because of the Verdi choral piece "Va, pensiero, sull'ali dorate", which means "Fly, thought, on golden wings". "Di pace" clearly means "of peace", which I knew from any number of arias, including another Verdi composition, "Pace, pace, mio Dio", from "La Forza del Destino".

So. "Nemico"? First I thought, "Enemy, surely." And then I thought, "Well, it needs to be an adjective, not a noun, so it must be 'inimical': 'A thought inimical to peace'." And that's when it hit me: "enemy" and "inimical" are from the same source!

I don't know why it never occurred to me before, but it never did. And yet there it is. But it gets even better!

Latin "inimicus" means "unfriendly"; it led to French "ennemi" and then Middle English "enemi", when modern English "enemy", as well as, obviously, "inimical". But "inimicus" itself is a compound: "in-", "not", plus, after a quick change of vowels, "amicus", "friend", which is the source of "amicable" and "amity", both friendly sorts of words.

"Amicus" stems from Indo-European "amma", which means "mother"; another of its descendants is "amare", "to love", for obvious reasons. "Amare" is itself a fertile word, giving English such words (all of them through French) as "amateur", someone who does something for love rather than money; "enamor", to cause to fall in love; and "paramour", a person one loves alongside their spouse.


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