or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Thursday, October 01, 2009


There's a new--well, newish--movie out called "Surrogates" and the reviews are on the whole pretty scathing so we decided not to go last weekend, but I got to thinking about the word "surrogate" and deconstructing it in my head, because that is what I generally do, and it seemed pretty obvious that it was constructed out of "sub-" plus some form of the English word "rogation" (most likely from a Latin verb, probably "rogare", which had a familiar ring to it), which is to say a very specific sort of entreaty or supplication, in this case to a deity asking for divine mercy (and generally in regards to crops or fields), most usually seen in English as part of the phrase "Rogation Day".

Well, all of this turned out to be correct, and all that was needed was to nail down what "rogare" meant and where it came from, and the answer is this; "rogare" means "to ask", because of a rather complex series of metaphors that began with Indo-European "reg-", "to straighten; to move in a straight line", and from there went to mean "to stretch out", and then "to stretch out (the hand)", and from there to "to ask".

"Surrogate", then, was originally someone acting in the stead of someone else who wishes to ask for something (sending a proxy to beg for clemency from the Emperor or some such, I would imagine), and eventually just someone who acts in the place of someone else, period.

I just noticed "proxy" now after having written it. Where can that have come from? Latin, natch: "procuratio", "management", which led to Anglo-French "procuracie", and then to the mashed-together Middle English "prokecye".


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