Let me ask you a purely academic question: Hello?
— Dean Blehert

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Committees, Capacitors and Capricious Derivations

"Committee" derives from the Latin, "Com" - with, and "mittere" - to put or send. Thus, a committee is a group to whom one sends things or with whom one puts things. It is, in short, a storage facility, particularly useful for long-term storage.

If issues are charged, too hot to touch, you refer them to a committee, which, like a capacitor, is layered: the conductors (who conduct business or electricity) are separated from one another by paper, which, like the layers of waxed paper in a capacitor, are dielectric, a word that combines the words "die" - expire - and "lectric" - which shares the Latin origin of "lecture", "lectern", etc.: "Legere", to read.

Thus, as a capacitor stores charge, so a committee stores matters of importance, which eventually expire, lost in the many layers of papers which must be read.

A committee is also a com-Mitty ("Mitty" as in Thurber's story, "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty") - a group of people who sit around a table and, together, dream unreal dreams of their own heroic statuses and capabilities. Sometimes, amid the sounds of paper shuffling and snoring, one hears them muttering in their dreams: "pocketa pocketa - queep! - pocketa...."

[Note: For the source of "pocketa..." -- see the Thurber story.]

No comments: