or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Monday, November 15, 2010


In this Atlantic article about Michael Pollan and the ethics of food, I spotted the word "indulge" with an accidental hard hyphen inside it, "in-dulge", which had the effect of spotlighting the word for me, after which I (of course) began to wonder where it could possibly have come from.

Obviously Latin; it starts with "in-" and has a rather Latinish feel about it. But other than speculating that it must be a back-formation from "indulgence" (it certainly has that overtone, as does "burgle" from "burglar"), I could not for the life of me guess what its root was.

And with good reason! Nobody else knows, either.

"Indulge" is a back-formation, I was gratified to learn, so that instinct is still working. As for "indulgence", it emerged from Latin "indulgentia", which is a form of the verb "indulgere", "to be kind, to yield". Before that, well, nothing. It just is. Not a very satisfying resolution, but there are sometimes dead ends in the world of etymology.


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