I was talking to a friend yesterday about seminar leaders and self-improvement gurus who use untrue stories to back up their point. I told the story of one of the most popular (and hence richest) of these authors and how he claimed that the word desire comes from the Latin roots “De Sire” meaning of the father.
I have studied Latin for seven years at schools in England and also love etymology, so this sounded wrong. I spent less than a minute online and discovered:
Desire – Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French desirer, from Latin desiderare, from de- + sider-, sidus heavenly body – Date: 13th century
Later I discovered the source of this mistake from someone the new age movement I really love and respect. This person wrote about desire fifty years ago when research was not so easy but today with Internet there is really no excuse for such mistakes.
Anyway, I’m going to start a series of such untrue stories and urbane tales. These are not true but there are teaching values in them anyway. The problem is when people talk about these puns being true linguistic etymology.
I mean it would be wonderful if desire meant of the father and meant that whatever you desire your heavenly father (or mother) would provide. It is a great story, a very useful lie but still a lie. I call it a pun since it is a matter of coincidence in English language and has no bearing with the Latin source or the word.
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