Thursday, February 14, 2013

Language of Confusion: Even More Versed

Recap: Verse, like Kevin Bacon, is in freaking everything. Like many words, it comes from the Latin word for “turn” and the slight differences parts of speech give rise to both –vert and –verse words. Such as…

Perverse: showed up in the fourteenth century just after pervert It comes from the Old French pervers, unnatural, and the classical Latin perversus, turned away or contrary (as in, turned from what is “right”). Latin also gives us pervertere, overturn or corrupt, and the origin word for pervert. It is a mix of the prefix per-, meaning away, and vertere, turn, making it “turn away”. It’s almost exclusively used in the figurative sense of course.

Adverse: came about in the late fourteenth centuryfrom the Old French avers and classical Latin adversus/advertere, turned toward or facing. The ad- prefix means “to”. It’s a little weird that “turned toward” means against, but it kind of makes sense if you think of someone who’s turned toward you as facing in the opposite direction. And we can’t forget advertand advertise, both of which showed up in the fifteenth century. The latter became something we should all be quite familiar with because I actually covered it in a post not three months ago : ).

Averse: this is another one I covered previously. Although it sounds like adverse, they aren’t more related than any of the other –verse words. Like avert, it comes from the Old French avertir and classical Latin avertere. The prefix is similar to ad-, but actually from ab- (away) rather than ad-. Since averse means to be turned off from something, “turned away” makes sense.

Inverse: both inverseand invertshowed up in the fifteenth century and can be traced to the Latin inversus/invertere. The in- prefix means in or on in this case, making it “turn in”, which can be applied to mean the upside down or inside out definitions we know it as.

Subvert: there’s no real accepted –verse version of this word. It’s just subvert, which showed up in the late fourteenth century from the Middle Frenchsubvertir and classical Latin subvertere. The sub- prefix means under, so it’s “turn under”, kind of similar to the word that’s a synonym for undermine.

Controversy: from the classical Latin controversia/controversus, or “turned against”, which makes sense considering that contro- means against. Controvert is technically a word, but it’s considered a back-formation (basically they copied the vert- from other words rather than take it from another language).

Introvert/extravert: I put these two together because they’re opposite versions of the same thing. I doubt the etymology will be surprising either. “Turn inward” and “turn outward”, as theirprefixesmean. Oh, and there’s ambiverttoo.

Anniversary: thisshouldn’t surprise anyone. It’s a mix of annualand vertere, or a turn of a year.

Obverse: basically means facing or the front of somethingand is the opposite of reverse (as in, the reverse side of something). The ob- prefix means towards, in this case as the front would be towards something.

Vertigo: it’s actually a Latin word for dizzinessthat we use in English. It comes directly from vertere.

Wow. That’s a lot of words. It’s good that we’re only going back to the Latin origins because if you go to Proto Indo European, there are even more.

Oh and happy Die Hard 5 release day! Or Valentine's Day. Whatever.

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  1. Interesting. And neato. You and ML Swift both posted on Latin this week.

    (Yes! Follow by email is officially working!)

  2. Anniversary? Would not have thought of that one.

  3. And thanks to Hitchcock, we confuse vertigo with fear of heights.


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