or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Friday, August 08, 2008


A few days ago, The Consumerist has a piece with the more or less self-explanatory title Extreme Makeover Home Edition Leaves Homeowners In Perdition* (the article links to this article).

"Perdition"; a great word, not used as much nowadays as it used to be. Where can it have come from?

It's got to be Latin; just looking at it is all the evidence you need, since it starts with that extremely common prefix "per-", which is an intensifier meaning "thoroughly", and ends with the suffix "-tion" or "-ion", marking it as a noun, so all we have to do is figure out the root, "-di-" or "-dit-".

That, as it turns out, is confusingly from the verb "dare", "to give". What has perdition to do with giving? "Dare" gave rise to the verb "perdere", "to lose", because the intensified/completed sense of "per-" conveyed the meaning "to give completely; to give up to the point of ruination." ("Perdere" also spread out to mean, in an active sense, "to do in; to ruin [someone]".) "Perdition", therefore, meant "destruction", which is what it means in the title of the Consumerist article: the state of utter ruin.

What was that adage about looking a gift horse in the mouth?

* In case that isn't self-explanatory, and you don't feel like reading the article or whatever: there's an American TV show called Extreme Makeover Home Edition; the original Extreme Makeover overhauls people with plastic surgery and such, the home version does the same with people's houses, and they're almost always sob stories, too, about some family with a disabled child or the like. The show sometimes tears down the original house altogether and rebuilds it, with the occasional result that the family can no longer afford the utility bills/property taxes for the new, larger, out-of-scale residence. Of course, a lot of these people were in financial hot water to begin with; what they needed wasn't a heart-tugging residential remake but a small-scale improvement and a budget they could live with. But that isn't good television.


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