Thursday, March 12, 2020

Language Of Confusion: Part IV

Okay, now for the words where it gets a little weird. The TL;DR for this is that all these words come from the Proto Indo European pere-, grant or allot. Which you would know if you’d been paying attention!

Portion is a part word. It showed up in the early fourteenth century, coming from the Old French porcion and classical Latin portionem, all of which basically mean a portion. Portionem has a bit of weirdness to it in that it’s actually from a phrase, pro portione, which means proportionally (I bet you can’t guess what word we’re talking about next). That word is from partio, which means part or division, from pars, which means part and is from pere-. As we’ve talked about every week for the past four weeks.

Now, obviously, proportion. It also showed up in the late fourteenth century, and much like portion, it’s from the Old French proporcion. We just straight up stole everything but the spelling. That’s from the classical Latin proportionem, which meant something like relationally. That’s from the already mentioned pro portione, with the pro meaning for and the rest meaning part. Proportion is… a part for? A division for? I mean, I can see it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not confusing.

Here’s where it gets fun. You know what else is related to part? Jeopardy. It showed up in the late fourteenth century, where it was spelled either jupartie or ioparde. The meaning was danger, but early on it also meant a cunning plan, and it’s based on the Old French phrase jeu parti, a lost game/a divided game/a game with even chances. Basically, it meant uncertainty, which does have an element of danger to it, so that’s where the definition came from. The jeu part literally means game or joke (that’s where joke comes from) and parti is from the verb partir, to divide or separate, from the classical Latin partire, to share, another descendant of pars. So because a fair game has an unknown outcome, we have jeopardy.

Finally, today, rampart. Just kidding! Rampart isn’t related to part. Although it is descended from a completely unrelated pere-. Actually, we’re going to look at repartee, which… while I know of it, I’ve never heard or seen it used in a sentence. I actually had to look up the definition (it means a witty reply). Repartee showed up relatively late, in the mid seventeenth century, from the French repartie, which just means repartee and was originally a fencing term. It’s from the Old French repartir, to reply promptly or to start out again, a combination of the prefix re-, back, and partir, divide or separate, which we’ve already talked about. So… it’s to separate back? I told you these were weird. At least, weird compared to the other part words.



  1. I've seen the word repartee before but it's not used often anymore.
    So, it there more to come?

  2. I love the word repartee! It goes so well with bon mots.

  3. I'm a fan of good repartee. I've used it in a sentence. I think.

  4. That fits with Trebek's version of jeopardy too.

  5. Oh, so witty repartee is like saying ATM machine or DC comics.


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