Monday, March 26, 2007

The Daily Hump: Burgle

I was watching the highly underrated 1966 spy flick Funeral in Berlin last night. Harry Palmer, played by Michael Caine, and Israeli secret agent Samantha Steel enter her apartment to find that it's been ransacked*. Harry's exact words are "You've been burgled."

Burgled is a back-formation of burglar; etymologically speaking a back-formation is created when you remove all the bits and pieces (affixes) of an earlier word to derive, falsely, an "orginal" form. Burglar was from Medieval Latin via Old French. The Latin verb burgare, meaning "to break open, commit burglary" comes from the Latin burgus meaning "fortress, castle" (which is a Germanic loan-word similar akin to borough, bourgeois, etc...). While burglar appeared in English (via Middle English) as early as the 1540s burgled didn't show up until the late 19th c.

*Ransacked is from the Old Norse rannsaka, meaning "to pillage" and literally comes from "to search the house". The second element saka, "to search", is related to the Old Norse soekja, which is the root of our word seek.

burglar [Online Etymology Dictionary]
ransack [Online Etymology Dictionary]
burgle [OED]
back-formation [Wikipedia]
Funeral in Berlin [IMDB]

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:: posted by David, 8:54 AM


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