Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Word of the day: emolument

The word is in the air. Merriam-Webster’s legal definition:

a return arising from office or employment usually in the form of compensation or perquisites <the President shall, at stated times, receive for his services, a compensation . . . and he shall not receive within that period any other emolumentU.S. Constitution art. II>
I would add: See also kleptocracy.

I wondered whether emolument is related to emollient, but the resemblance is just coincidence. Emolument comes from the Latin verb emolere, “to produce by grinding.” Merriam-Webster explains that by 1480, when emolument first appeared in English,
Latin emolumentum had come to mean simply “profit” or “gain”; it had become removed from its own Latin predecessor, the verb molere, meaning “to grind.” The original connection between the noun and this verb was its reference to the profit or gain from grinding another’s grain.
Emollient comes from the Latin emollire, “to soften.” A president who receives many emoluments might be said to live a soft (not to mention corrupt) life, but that president would still need to pay for creams and lotions to soften the skin, unless that president’s preferred emollients are already among his or her emoluments.

comments: 2

Daughter Number Three said...

Emolere vs. emollire - wow, the Romans must have gotten those mixed up, too. And they're almost antonyms... grind vs. soften.

Michael Leddy said...

I thought that might be the way they go together: something ground up to make a soft paste.

We should have a press conference about this topic; it’d have to be an improvement on the one this morning.