or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Saturday, December 29, 2007

On The Fly

Today it snowed, so the bus routes were kind of messed up, and I was obliged to transfer from one bus to another at some point in the trip. (Usually it's a direct route: just outside the store at which I work to the bottom of the street on which I live. Very nice.) The transfer, which of course is in English and French, bore the following words:


Now, "trajet" is obviously related to "trajectory", but I suppose I was too work-weary to think where it might have come from. The "tra-" part threw me off so much that I couldn't imagine where the "-ject-" part did, even though I certainly ought to have known, or at least made an intelligent guess. So I filed it all away for later, which is to say now.

"Trajet" is an odd translation for "route", I think, because "trajectory" in English means the path of something that is thrown or fired or otherwise sent through space. It has a sense of something being launched, which doesn't really seem to apply to a bus. However, there is an archaic English verb, "traject", which means "to transport or transmit", so I guess that's clear enough a relationship.

Anyway, the "tra-" in "trajectory" is in fact an abbreviation of "trans-", "across", and if I had known that, I might have been able to make more sense of the word. The "-ject-" part is common enough in English that I'm amazed I couldn't make any sense of it; it's in such words as "interject", "reject", "subject", and over a dozen others. It comes from Latin "jacere", "to throw". It doesn't necessarily have this exact meaning in all its English derivatives, of course: when a doctor injects something into a patient, she doesn't literally throw it into him. (However, when we inject a comment into a conversation, we do throw it into the arena.) To reject is to throw back; to project can be to throw forward, whether it's a movie on a screen or a sense of importance.

Since the "-jet" in the French word "trajet" is equivalent to the "-ject" in the English version, does that mean that English "jet" comes ultimately from Latin "jacere"? It certainly does; a jet is something sent up into the air. And a "jeté" in ballet is a kind of leap--a way of throwing yourself into the air.


Blogger Frank said...

I was curious if "jet," as in the color/popular Victorian jewelry component came from "jacere" somehow, too. Not entirely unexpectedly, it does not (how "to throw" would turn into "a bit of coal," I had no idea, but stranger things have happened in language over the millenia). It actually derives from the name of an ancient town in Lycia (now part of Turkey) called Gagai, where it was presumably mined.

Sunday, December 30, 2007 6:55:00 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home