Monday, September 6, 2010

Etymology of terms

Sometimes I wonder where the hell terms come from. Here are some recent examples of my wonderings.

Vaudeville:  The origin of the term is obscure, but is often explained as being derived from the expression voix de ville, or "voice of the city."

The term vaudeville, referring specifically to North American variety entertainment, came into common usage after 1871 with the formation of Sargent's Great Vaudeville Company of Louisville, Kentucky. It had little, if anything, to do with the Comédie en vaudeville of the French theatre. More here:

Numerary:  is a civil designation for persons who are incorporated in a fixed or permanent way to a society or group: regular member of the working staff, permanent staff, or member, distinguished from a supernumerary.

The term "numerary" and its counterpart, "supernumerary," originated in Spanish and Latin American academy and government; it is now also used in countries all over the world, such as France, the U.S., England, Italy, etc.

I was reading something the other day and came across this numerary word.  It made me think of my days in the army ... when we pulled guard duty they would put all the guards in formation and do an inspection.  The guy with the highest marks (best shined boots, brass, etc etc) was designated as the "Supernumerary."

Supernumerary: is an additional member of an organization. A supernumerary is also a non-regular member of a staff, a member of the staff or an employee who works in a public office who is not part of the manpower complement. Thus, a supernumerary could be an extra member or a temporary employee in addition to the permanent staff, or permanent members of a society

The supernumerary was then relieved of his duty and all he had to do was sit around and watch tv for the 24-hour duty call ... unless one of the other guards got injured or otherwise incapacitated, in which case the supernumerary would take over.  Anyway, I always wondered where that term came from.  Half of me thought the mucky-mucks were making it up or had an inside joke with it or something.  I never cared enough about it to look it up.

I did make supernumerary a time or two during my stint. One of the tricks was to ensure you didn't have any loose threads on your uniform ... particularly where your name tag or unit patches etc were sewn on your uniform.


WOMBAT said...

How come on at least 3 occasions, they say "supernumerary" yet you insist on saying "super numerary"? Are you some kind of slow learner or something? I mean what's the point of being an autodidact if you're going to botch it 5 seconds later?

Evil_Klown said...

Yes, I am a slow learner. It's only ONE of the things that held me back from being a bona fide genius.

I finally learned the "supernumerary" thing though, so thanks.

A is A said...

My dictionary defines "supernumerary" as "superfluous and unneeded", or a person with a small non-speaking role in the theater - "as in a mob scene".

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