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Welcome to issue #50 of Words Matter, our bi-weekly newsletter. Please feel free to share with a friend!
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There is much talk in the air this month about investing and divesting and vested interests, and--pulling out the old Christmas vests! Several word-curious friends have wondered recently whether these words have a connection. Always happy to talk word matters, I'll answer their wonder here. The answer is Yes!
Let's start with the basics. A vest was originally something you wear: the words wear and vest have a common origin in Old English and Old High German roots. Before King Charles II of England popularized the economical "sleeveless coat", the vest was any coat or covering, as we still see in words such as vestment (we kids in the church choir always beamed with pride when we dressed out in our vestment robes for a program).
An investiture is a formal ceremony during which someone is given a wearing apparel that made the person visually stand out--a special hat, say, or an adorned robe, or a decorated sash. This clothing with its regalia and insignia symbolized some new power, position, ceremony, or authority.
Shortened to invest, the word came to mean to give high importance to something, so that to invest one's time or energy to a job or family or property was to protect, to keep it safe--to insulate as if clothing it.
Money as well as time and energy was invested to various matters in hope of keeping them safe, protected, and prosperous. From there, the language applied its typical morphological magic to coin such words as reinvest (also becoming revest), and disinvest (also becoming divest).
Travesty? Something that is a terrible disgrace or misrepresentation--goes back to the root's clothing ancestry. Travestry is essentially the parading around in apparel (or lack thereof) that crosses over to the inappropriate or misleading.
Sometimes when we investigate the history of words in the vestibules of antiquity, we discover vestiges of social custom and fascinating interconnections among ideas. As we have seen many times in this space, however, words that look related often turn out not to be. For example,the words vestige and investigate come from a root meaning footprints. And vestibule is from a root meaning home or hearth--just like the Roman goddess Vesta! --R.D. "Doc" Larrick
This brief student video comes directly from WordBuildonLine Foundations Level 3 .
The suffix IVE
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