or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Saturday, December 26, 2009

And Accounted For

Well, Merry Christmas to you all, or merry whatever it is you celebrate. If I thought I was jaded and bitter last year, it's nothing to how I felt this year, with the season beginning even earlier (we had our first Christmas merchandise at the end of July) and the music much, much worse than usual (don't get me started).

Jim and I had a midday meal, but since in 2006 we had beef stew instead of turkey, we didn't feel too bad about having tourtiere (a sort of meat pie) with gravy and stuffing and vegetables. Otherwise, we more or less ignored the existence of Christmas altogether. We have pretty much everything we need, so we didn't even exchange presents.

Aren't you curious about the word "present"? It has three separate kinds of meanings, with various little jigsaw tabs where they might interlock, but it is not immediately obvious how the noun "present" meaning "right now" has anything to do with the noun meaning "gift", and the adjective meaning "in this place", and the verb meaning "to display to". And yet they clearly must have some sort of relationship.

It starts with the adjective, which is compounded from Latin "pre-", "before, in front of" and "esse", "to be". Once that's spelled out, it's as obvious as can be; someone who is present is standing there before you. The verb naturally follows: to present someone is to place them before you so they can be acknowledged. The present is the time which is immediately at hand, which is right in front of you (as opposed to the behind-you past and the off-in-the-distance future). And a present is something that has been presented to you. There are dozens of finely varied meanings ("to present arms"), but they always boil down to the same thing: whatever it is, it's right there.


Post a Comment

<< Home