or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Monday, June 09, 2008

Burning Bright

If you were to see me on the street, furtively sniffing the back of my hand and looking blissfully happy, you might not know what to make of it, but it's all very innocuous; I have found a wonderful, wonderful new scent and I can't get enough of it. It's Incense by a company called Demeter, and you can read my review of it over on my other blog, if you've a mind to. Then you should order some. It's so great.

The words "censor" and "censer" are pronounced identically, and they get swapped in print a lot. Would it solve the problem if I unilaterally said that censors are people and censers are things? No? All right, then.

"Censor" comes from Latin "censere", "to assess, appraise, judge"; the original Roman censors not only took censuses (another related word) but also acted as inspectors of public morals. "Censere" is from the Indo-European root "kens-", "to proclaim": "censor", "censure", and "census" (along with their various derivations) are the only common English offshoots of this root. (There is one other, "recension", "the editorial revision of a text". Had you ever heard it before? I hadn't.)

"Censer" comes from "incense": you could think of it as "incenser". "Incense", in turn, is from Latin "incensus", the past participle of "incendere", "to set alight". "Incendere" also led to English "incendiary", as you probably guessed. (Would you have also guessed that "cinder" is from "incendere"? I would have, but it isn't. According to the OED, French "cendre" is not the source of "cinder", either, though back in December of 2007 I wrote that it was. I was cruelly deceived! But "cendre" did influence the spelling of "cinder", which was originally "synder". I shall have to fix the prior entry somehow.) "Incendere" in turn is from "candere", "to shine forth, to be hot".


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