or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Serious Business

The other day I was listening to a tenor aria from an opera called "Mitridate, Re di Ponto" by Mozart. He wrote it when he was 14, which is astounding, but the aria itself, I hate to say, I found kind of boring. Then I remembered that "Mitridate" was in a style called "opera seria", "serious opera", which even in Mozart's day people were beginning to find kind of boring. Then I thought how odd it was that "seria" looks so much like "serial", even though it means "serious", and "serious" and "serial" can't possibly be related. I mean, can they?

Luckily, they can't. "Serial", the adjective (and later the noun), is derived from "series", in turn from the Latin verb "serere", "to join together: to connect". "Serere" has a clutch of offspring: "insert" is "to connect into", while the verb "desert" is literally "to undo a connection that has been made". "Exert" is a bit more abstract: literally "out" plus "connect", it means "to put forth (effort)", which you can read as "to reach out and take". One of the offshoots of "serere" is rather unexpected: "sermon", a series of words strung together into a lecture.

"Serious", on the other hand, is very straightforwardly from Latin "serius", "important: weighty".


Post a Comment

<< Home