Friday, March 13, 2009
So what do you think about this Priceless Life group? I want to unpack the word priceless a little. The root price goes all the way back to a Latin root pretium, which means value or worth. Okay so far. But then why isn’t priceless the same as worthless? I mean, that’s the kind of thing that makes me love language, but when you’re naming a group of agitators who are apparently willing to shoot cops (if you believe it was Priceless Life who iced Officer Jason Kindred), that kind of commitment deserves a certain precision of meaning. Technically priceless should mean the same as worthless. Now, whoever named this group can’t be held responsible for two thousand years of random deviations of two different words from a misty Latin origin. I’ll grant you that. And I will grant you that I am probably the only person in the entire English-speaking world who cares about this. But something about it bothers me. I just can’t take these people seriously. I should, yeah, I know I should. And while we’re on the topic, or somewhere in the area of the topic, how did Latin somehow come to mean someone who comes from a country that speaks Spanish? Cicero is rolling over in his grave, or would be if he hadn’t been metabolized by worms two thousand years ago and then cycled through the food chain maybe a hundred times. I, who probably include in my body a molecule or two that once formed part of that great orator, pronounce myself here and forevermore against the phenomenon of linguistic drift. Elect me to the Academie Francaise now.