Thursday, August 20, 2015

Language of Confusion: -Pose, Part III

The last set! I think. Unless there’s a word I missed. Let’s just hope there’s not.

First today is propose. It showed up in the mid fourteenth century, from the Old French proposer, which just means repose. And like most of the other words, it’s only -pose because French couldn’t keep the Latin suffixes straight and gave -pose the meaning of -pone. Actually, the correct suffix survives in the words proponent and propound, and the word propone did exist for a little while. But I guess it got dropped because that incorrect suffix was hung on everything else. All those words come straight from the classical Latin proponere, which is just propose. The pro- means before and the -pone means to lay or place. All together, the word is “to lay before”, which sounds like a proposal. The word malapropos also comes from propose—it’s just propose with mal (bad) stuck in the front. But it still really gets me is that we had the correct word for once and we still chose to use the wrong one.

Repose is a very satisfying word. It showed up in the mid fifteenth century from the Middle French reposer and Old French repauser. Before that, it comes from the Late Latin repausare, cause to rest, a combination of re- (just an intensifier here) and pausare, to stop, the origin word for pause. However, repose is not completely without sin, as only one of its verb forms (lie at rest) comes from repausare. The other (put or place) comes from the classical Latin reponere, replace. It was probably changed to fall in line with all the other -pose words, because they just couldn’t help themselves.

Next is depose and deposition. The first showed up in the early fourteenth century while the latter showed up in the late fourteenth century. Plus, there’s also deposit, which showed up in the early seventeenth century. All the words (as usual) come from the classical Latin deponere, to set aside. The de- means away and ponere place, so to place away. Makes sense, as a deposit is money you put away and you depose a ruler you want away. The whole testimony under oath thing from deposition appeared in the fifteenth century. I’m not sure why it means what it does, but it might have to do with position originally meaning the position you took in an argument. It just got tangled up with the switched suffixes of depose and deposit.

Finally, to finish us off, the dispose words. Dispose and disposition showed up in the late fourteenth century, while indisposed showed up in the early fifteenth century. Dispose comes from the Old French disposer, arrange or regulate, from the classical Latin disponere, which could mean just dispose or arrange/regulate, like in French. Dis- means apart, and ponere you should know by now, so place apart. Which makes sense for the regulate thing. Also, when you dispose of something, you’re setting it apart (in the trash). Disposition seems a lot more figurative, like instead of arranging something physical, it’s the arrangement of your mind. Indisposed comes from either in- (not) and disposed or right from the Late Latin indispositus, confused or disordered. Originally meant unprepared in English, then it morphed to diseased and then not well. All of which are not being in order, I guess.

TL;DR: All -pose words should really be -pone.



  1. Very insightful post indeed, thanks for sharing!

  2. Are you sure they shouldn't be "pown"? Or is that "pawn"?
    Hmm... I don't know, but I'm not checking.

  3. We could use a depose of our current PM. Hopefully the election coming up will see the last day of him in public life!

  4. Maybe -pose words should be -pone, but it would sound weird to be indisponed….


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