Saturday, 11 December 2010
I'm struck by the fact that 'misery' ('great sorrow or mental distress; a miserable or wretched state of mind; a condition characterized by a feeling of extreme unhappiness') and 'miser' ('a person who hoards wealth ... an avaricious, grasping, or stingy and parsimonious person') are versions of the same word; that, in fact, the former is a version of the latter ('Anglo-Norman and Old French miserie unhappy state < classical Latin miseria wretched or pitiful condition < miser(see miser adj. and n.1) + -ia-y suffix' OED) I wonder how far we can push this? It would be tempting to argue that a miser is so-called because his parsimony means he lives a miserable life, if this didn't get the etymological relation the wrong way about. Could it be that people are miserable, in an existential sense, because they are hoarding something?