In the novel, Vanity Fair, by William Makepeace Thackery, the word “peculation” appears twice. I was about to glide over it and go on with reading it as a misspelling for “speculation” which I must have done the first time(s) I read it, but was surprised to discover that it shared roots with “pecuniary.” That resulted in a nice tie-in for me.
Apparently, there is no relation to “speculation” at all. Merriam-Webster, in a word-of-the-day entry, offers:
“Peculation” has some peculiar relatives. It derives from Latin “peculatus” ("misappropriation of property"), which belongs to a family of Latin words having to do with property and possession. The most basic members of the family, “pecu” ("cattle") and “pecus"("livestock"), reflect the fact that animals were a fundamental form of wealth in ancient societies. Other members of the family include “pecunia” ("money"), which gave English “pecuniary” ("monetary"), and “peculiaris” ("of private property” or “special"), which led to our “peculiar.”
I was curious if others might have shared my misunderstanding.
Also, I was curious about its frequency of use in the various ‘Pondias, including Downundria, etc.