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Ritchie and etymology

The word company has two roots. The first is ‘com’, which when compounded usually means ‘together’ and things akin to it.

The second is ‘panis’, which is the Latin for bread.

Company does, therefore, imply those who share bread together.

Not really, no. Because there’s an interim stage:

The English word company has its origins in the Old French military term compaignie (first recorded in 1150), meaning a “body of soldiers”,[1] and originally from the Late Latin word companio “companion, one who eats bread [pane] with you”, first attested in the Lex Salica as a calque of the Germanic expression *gahlaibo (literally, “with bread”), related to Old High German galeipo “companion” and Gothic gahlaiba “messmate”. By 1303, the word referred to trade guilds. Usage of company to mean “business association” was first recorded in 1553,[citation needed] and the abbreviation “co.” dates from 1769. (French uses the equivalent abbreviation cie.)

And not just the interim stage, but the basic Germanic root of the idea.

It’s we who fight against everyone else.

It’s an interesting idea. There are obvious theological elements to this. But there are also social ones. Who is, and is not, invited to this meal is the question the meaning gives rise to. How far is the largesse spread?

It really means, as that root shows, that those outside the company can go fuck off and die and we’ll kill them if they don’t.

19 thoughts on “Ritchie and etymology”

  1. Only a cretin would use etymology to criticise something in the modern era. Etymology is a very interesting subject, but it’s utterly irrelevant to how a term is understood in the present day. “Carnival” derives from Medieval Latin carne vale “flesh, farewell!!, but it would be staggeringly stupid to criticise the Notting Hill Carnival for not featuring meat prominently.

  2. Bloke in North Dorset

    The word company can mean whatever common usage has evolved it to mean.

    The Company, which he is talking about, has a specific legal meaning:

    Company Definition:
    A legal entity, allowed by legislation, which permits a group of people, as shareholders, to apply to the government for an independent organization to be created, which can then focus on pursuing set objectives, and empowered with legal rights which are usually only reserved for individuals, such as to sue and be sued, own property, hire employees or loan and borrow money.

  3. Agree with TimN. But that etymology seems a bit strained, anyway. I’d imagine the Latin for “in the company of must have been common usage. Spanish has companero – companion.
    I suppose the military “compaignie” gives the notion of a body of men with a distinct identity apart from its individual members. But, by the same token, one can do the same thing with any body of individuals. The guilds would seem to well predate 1150 & refer to the “…Company of ….”
    In defiance of pendantry, words mean what their users choose them to mean. No-one walks around with books of etymology or the Oxford Concise (apart from dearieme)

  4. The answer is plain – a joint-stock company is a group of people who band together to do something in the hope of being rewarded. Murph’s question as to who should share the profits is therefore defined in the very word – the band of people who are doing this activity. The fact that “company” and foreign equivalents are rigidly defined in legislation does not seem to occur to his mind. A word can have different definitions according to the context – there’s a new thought for Murph to spring on an amazed world. The etymology is interesting but somewhat uncertain and, in any case, can only take you so far. For example, treacle derives from a word meaning “antidote to poisonous animals”. How many meanings are conveyed by the word “stock”?

  5. When I saw Richie groping for the meaning of “Panis”, I initially misread it, and nearly sent him a mirror.

  6. What is the etymology of limited liability partnership, and does he discuss the amount of bread he shares with others?

  7. Worth pointing out that the sharers of bread were effectively the clients of the lord who provided the bread (it is a bit wrong for our host to suggest that this was Germanic in origin though – the Romans were perfectly capable of developing groups of armed followers bound together by companionship – and the Latin/French term is actually probably equivalent to but not a calque on the German). So what Ritchie is effectively suggesting here is that by going back to the roots of the word that we re-activate the Roman system of the powerful feeding the poor in return for their vote and their muscle (and a cut of their income)…

    Which either sounds like a bad idea in a Somali warlord sort of way, or a synopsis of Gordon Brown’s entire political ideology (so also a bad idea).

  8. The argument has the smug idiocy of the primary school.

    “Did you know “X” really means “Y” so really you’re a poo-pants”

  9. Andrew,

    You forgot Ritchie’s own version of ‘No Returns!’: ‘I have blogged on this elsewhere, and now you are wasting my time’

  10. Bis

    “words mean what their users choose them to mean.”

    Meaning is use – that is, established use, which can evolve but isn’t arbitrary. If you choose words to mean what you want them to mean, you’ll fail to communicate efficiently.

  11. And trying to tie theology in, the concept of sharing bread (or any particular staple) hardly being specific to one particular culture let alone religion. Is he claiming that participation in a company is some form of sacrament, brings a whole new meaning to dividend payments and preferred stocks.

  12. I would have thought etymology would be very dodgy ground indeed for the SJWs, given that they constantly invert the meaning of words.

  13. Rob

    the only consistent thought you get from Murph is…if it moves tax it. If it’s dead, tax its dependants. And if there is anything left…tax the residue.

    The Joy of Tax.

  14. Bloke in Costa Rica

    Murphy doing etymology is like watching a room full of Down syndrome kids try to play The Blue Danube on kazoos. It’s horrifying and embarrassing, but somehow you have to keep looking. I wouldn’t be surprised if he shat himself with the mental effort of looking up the correct declension of bread in Latin.

  15. If “Murphy doing etymology is like watching a room full of Down syndrome kids try to play The Blue Danube on kazoos.” isn’t Quote of the Day somewhere, then there is something seriously wrong with the interwebs.

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