Charlie Bertsch (cbertsch) wrote,
Charlie Bertsch

  • Location:
  • Mood:
  • Music:

The Shame

I'm beside myself with embarrassment. In my entry about circumcision this morning, I provided a false etymology. Even worse, I deceived my own daughter with the same lie. I didn't mean to perpetuate the deceit, but that doesn't make things right. So, without further ado, let me state, for the record, as bobo_amargo so graciously pointed out, that the word "incident" has a different parentage than "incisive." While the latter does, in fact, come from the Latin "cædere," meaning "to strike" or " to cut," the former actually derives from the Latin "cadere," meaning "to fall" or "to die."

My confusion came from an undergraduate lecture that I either remembered too dimly or didn't comprehend to begin with. You see, I had thought that those two Latin verbs were from the same Indo-European root because my instructor had made a play on words that centered on the phrase, "when the strike falls." But I've looked up the words in the Oxford English Dictionary and a few etymological dictionaries and can find no evidence to support my ill-founded conviction that "incident" and "incisive" are related.

The worst part of this discovery is that it is accompanied by the realization that I have done precisely what I rag on Martin Heidegger for doing: playing fast and loose with the history of words. I hope this isn't the start of something more serious. If I start looking at photos of Hannah Arendt with inexplicable longing -- already a possibility, given that she was definitely my type -- and am overcome with the desire to remove my shoes and dangle my feet in a Black Forest stream, I will know that I am infected. Maybe I should have a glance at Theodor Adorno's The Jargon of Authenticity in the hopes that it will serve as the zinc needed to forestall the worsening of this false etymology-inducing virus.
Tags: autobiography, humor, language

  • Redefining Need

    "Can a society which is incapable of protecting individual privacy even within one's four walls rightfully claim that it respects the individual and…

  • Hammer Time

    It is hard to be here. As I much as part of me wants to return, I clearly exhaust my will in other ways. But I can at least muster up the energy to…

  • Between Two Worlds

  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded 

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.