Sometimes I'm reading along, and I'll hit a word – usually a really common word – that I've never thought of in terms of etymology before (usually because
it's a really common word, and thus kinda invisible in my day-to-day goings-about), and encountering it in a new context makes the etymology just... click into place for me, and it's like I've uncovered a new nugget of meaning and a secret pedigree, and it makes me really happy.
Frex: I'm reading the astronomy textbook I got from Launchpad. I come across this passage:
Evidence that asteroids and comets really are leftover planetesimals comes from analysis of meteorites, spacecraft visits to comets and asteroids, and computer simulations of solar system formation. The nebular theory actually predicts he existence of both the Oort Cloud and the Kuiper Belt—a prediction first made in the 1950s. Thus, the discoveries, beginning in the 1990s, of numerous objects orbiting in the Kuiper Belt represent a triumph for the nebular theory.
(Emphasis is the book's.)
My mind caught on the use of that first predicts
. Looking at it stylistically, I first thought it should have been predicted
, so I started testing my assumptions to see if I still thought they were correct. I thought about the word predates
, and how that could be used in present tense and I'd have no issue with it. So, I took a closer look at predict
– something I'd never been prompted to break down before.pre
, before. dict
, from the same roots as dictate
. I didn't have a Latin dictionary (dict
ionary!) at hand, so I didn't look up the exact meaning
– but I had enough grounding at that point that my concerns were washed away. Dict
; an authoritative or forceful assertion. A pre-dictum
. The science dictates that it shall be so, and (in this case) it is revealed that it is so. How fabulous. A much more forceful etymology. Gleaming little declarative bones in a soft skin of supposition.
Moments like this make me love linguistics.