Monday, April 30, 2007

Caveat Emptor

Call me old-fashioned, but sometimes I have twinges of nostalgia for words that have passed out of currency and are now considered obsolete. It’s not so much the lost words themselves; it’s the word parts upon which they were built. A case in point is -empt/or-.

It comes from the Latin verb emere, to buy. That lead to the noun emptio, a purchase. Many of you will be familiar with the phrase caveat emptor, which means “let the buyer beware.” That is one of the few traces left today, and it’s not even English.

Here are some of the now-obsolete words that used this word part:

• coemption: The buying up of the whole supply of any commodity in the market.
• emption: The action of buying: chiefly in phrases, right of (sole) emption, etc.
• emptional: That which may be purchased
• emptitious: Venal, capable of being bought.
• emptor: A purchaser.
• emptory: A mart, market-place.

I propose reviving the word emptorial, defined as “of or pertaining to buying.” Thus, we would have emptorial frenzy, emptorial sprees, emptorial considerations and concerns, emptorial opportunities, emptorial compulsion, and emptorial trends or patterns.

The word is not a total invention. The word actually appeared in the 1922 edition of Roget’s International Thesaurus, edited by Mawson. In that edition, it appeared under 795: Purchase.

I am also reminded of the word part onio-, which comes from the Greek oneisthai, to buy. It appears in the word oniomania, a compulsive urge to buy things. Evidently, even the Greeks and Romans had blue light specials: venditio cum luce caeruleo.

SIDEBAR: Food buying tips

SIDEBAR: Budgeting

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