or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Building Code

As I mentioned, I am listening to an audiobook called "A Crack in the Edge of the World", and of course the word "destroyed" cropped up, and although I am paying close attention to the book, it did occur to me that I didn't know where the word "destroy" might have come from, which seems like kind of a gap in my knowledge.

I knew that the French verb "detruire" meant, and on reflection must clearly be the source of, "destroy", but beyond that I was lost. If only I had bothered to think about the noun form! But no, I was fixated on "destroy", which was, I could see, composed of "de-", a negating prefix, plus...what? I couldn't make sense of it. Can you?

As it turns out, the root of it is the Latin verb "struere", "to build, to make a pile". Of course! To construct something is to build it up (literally, together): to destroy it is to do the opposite. And if I had thought of "destruction", I expect that the "-struct-" root would have been obvious to me. But it wasn't. Perhaps you had better luck.

"Struere" will also make you think of "construe", which is only right, because that is its root: to construe is to analyze or make sense of, literally to build up the meaning of, and to misconstrue is to misinterpret--literally put the wrong construction on--an action or intention.


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