Friday, December 08, 2006

Hump This: Governor/Gubernatorial

Hump This is a (quasi-)weekly Friday feature where you, the WordHumper reader, choose which lucky word gets humped back to the stoneage (or at least to Proto-Indo-Europa). Today's word comes from RM in California who asks:
I would like you to explore governor/gubernatorial. I see how the words are related.. sort of. B's and V's are related and vowels have drifted but why? What happened?
In order to understand the differences in spelling let's start by looking at govern.

Govern enters the English language at the end of the 13th c. via Old French. The French, in turn, had gotten the word from the Latin gubernare, which originally had the meaning "to steer (a ship)". The Latin word comes from the Greek kybernan, also meaning "to steer or pilot", and which, incidentally happens to be the root of our word cybernetics. Now you understand why cyborgs run the government.

Gubernatorial is a chiefly American word that first appeared in 1734 in reference to "The [New Jersey] Governor in his gubernatorial Capacity". Apparently the colonial Americans assumed the Latin verb gubernare must have had an associated adjective construction, gubernatorius, despite lacking evidence of this form.

So, gubernatorial was contrived directly from the Latin versus governor which found its form via the normal transformations common to centuries of usage.

If you have a word you'd like humped please email it, along with your location, to wordhumper.

Gubernatorial [OED]
Govern [OED]
Gubernatorial [Online Etymology Dictionary]

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:: posted by David, 7:51 AM


Thank you! And nice photo.. it sums up your post very well.
Blogger Rachel, at 1:11 PM  

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