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Dr. Goodword
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Postby Dr. Goodword » Tue Aug 29, 2006 9:43 pm

• peculate •

Pronunciation: pe-kyê-layt • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb

Meaning: To embezzle, to steal money entrusted to you.

Notes: Today's Good Word behaves pretty much like speculate: a peculator is someone who engages in peculation, a peculative activity. The spelling is straightforward: since the C appears before a back vowel (u, o, a) it is pronounced 'hard', like K. (When it occurs before a front vowel (e, i) it is usually pronounced 'soft', like S.)

In Play: "Why do we need peculate if we have embezzle?" I heard someone ask. The answer is simple; it gives us a marvelous play on words: "Some say Hans Oppenfriese got his start by speculation, others say by peculation." And speculate isn't the only word you can play with: "Russell peculated all the coffee money and pilfered the percolator, too."

Word History: Today's Good Word, like many others in English, is baed on the past participle, peculatus of a Latin verb, in this case, peculari "to embezzle". The verb is based on the noun peculium "private property", whose adjective, peculiaris, is the source of English peculiar. Peculium, in its turn, is based on Latin pecus "cattle", which explains why the original root entered Old English directly as feoh "cattle, goods, money". Latin also had a word pecunia "property, wealth" which was borrowed by English as pecunious "rich". The negative prefix im- was added to this word in the late 16th century to provide English with one of its synonyms for "poor", impecunious.
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Postby Palewriter » Wed Aug 30, 2006 12:39 am

Hm. I've always wondered about the origins of the name of one of my favorite beers: (Old Peculiar). Perhaps the meaning is something like "old property" or "old belonging-to-me' in its adjectival sense. Thirsty minds need to know.

One wonders. Why don't young students write doctoral theses about stuff like this, instead of "A Catalog of Aeronautical Terms in the Early Works of William Shakespeare" and such.

Just kidding, doc. :-)

-- PW
"Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention to arrive safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming: Wow!!! What a ride!"

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Postby Stargzer » Tue Sep 05, 2006 11:03 pm

A related word:

Pecuniary -- of or relating to money

"To preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms, and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them."
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