Posted by: Jack Henry | September 15, 2016

Editor’s Corner: Mortgage and Mortuary

Yes, I’m back with another couplet from Words of a Feather: A Humorous Puzzlement of Etymological Pairs, by Murray Suid. Today’s words of a feather are mortgage and mortuary.

For homeowners who actually don’t yet fully own their homes, the arrival of the monthly mortgage bill is as depressing as a visit to a mortuary.

And that shouldn’t be a surprise, for both mortgage and mortuary are built on the Old French mort, meaning “dead.” The French word traces back to the Latin mori, “to die,” the ultimate source for mortal, which refers to any living thing that has death in its future.

Mortgage combines the idea of death with gage, a pledge, suggesting that if the borrower doesn’t honor the pledge and pay what’s due on the loan, the property will be forfeited, lost, or—metaphorically—dead to its former owner.

Other mort words include mortify (to make as if dead), mortician (a beautician for dead folks), and, for those who like upbeat endings, immortality.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

619-542-6773 | Ext: 766773

Symitar Documentation Services

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  1. […] this wasn’t the first time I wondered, because I wrote about it a couple of years ago in Editor’s Corner. But I’m getting old, and I want to revisit […]

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