peculation
Posted: 16 September 2011 03:40 PM   [ Ignore ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  649
Joined  2011-04-10

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.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 16 September 2011 11:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1365
Joined  2007-01-29

Never heard of it (UK) but I wouldn’t automatically have assumed that it was related to speculate.  I can understand the assumption, though - similar-sounding words for embezzlement and gambling invite speculation.  ahem

Profile
 
 
Posted: 17 September 2011 03:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4658
Joined  2007-01-03

The OED3 (Sep 2005) marks it as “somewhat formal in later use.” If it were me, I’d say “affected” rather than “formal.” That dictionary has cites from both left and rightpondias, but no antipodean cites (which doesn’t mean that it isn’t used there).

The most recent cite is from a 1994 Daily Telegraph article that reads: “It would no longer tolerate a form of politics that favoured politicians above people and peculation above principles.” Clearly a case where the writer was going for alliteration.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 17 September 2011 06:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  3449
Joined  2007-01-29

I have been familiar with the word since my youth (of course, I was an avid reader of dictionaries), and never associated it with “speculation” (...and etymologies).

Odd that M-W doesn’t mention the etymological connection to fee.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 17 September 2011 10:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2310
Joined  2007-01-30

As with lh I’ve known it since my salad days (and for similar reasons - 40 years of daily Times and Guardian crosswords didn’t hurt either.)

Profile
 
 
Posted: 17 September 2011 01:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1971
Joined  2007-02-19

Odd that M-W doesn’t mention the etymological connection to fee.

Interesting titbit, languagehat, completely new to me - thanks!

My definition of peculation - “fiddling with money” ;-)

Profile
 
 
Posted: 17 September 2011 06:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  649
Joined  2011-04-10

I see that mirriam-webster.com has for the origin of “peculate”:

Origin of PECULATE

Latin peculatus, past participle of peculari, from peculium

First Known Use: 1802

Etymonline offers for “peculate”:

1749, from L. peculatus, pp. of peculari “to embezzle,” from peculum “private property"…

I was curious what the OED offers as first use cite for “peculate”. 

I have located a series of possible examples of use from The history of Scotland, from the year 1423 until the year 1542: ... by William Drummond [of Hawthornden], 1655. 

In the “The Preface to the Reader”, there is an unusual (it may be intended to indicate the winter of 1654-1655; thus, January of 1655?) format for indicating the year:

books?id=svRMAAAAMAAJ&pg=PP28&img=1&zoom=3&hl=en&sig=ACfU3U3-3_67lf266wF5eMvCYgL9wW4ZEA&ci=149,1359,241,96&edge=0

The possible examples:


books?id=svRMAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA48&img=1&zoom=3&hl=en&sig=ACfU3U3Jlgn5CPjRP_5VV76VLC0c4kGx9w&ci=164,826,733,257&edge=0

.

books?id=svRMAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA83&img=1&zoom=3&hl=en&sig=ACfU3U0-g0NFULjLHdnRJep_yjWmOsqwPw&ci=166,680,695,168&edge=0

.

books?id=svRMAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA45&img=1&zoom=3&hl=en&sig=ACfU3U0k0z7pnLInv6gLZjBDJ6k1T9QsYQ&ci=127,174,724,236&edge=0

“...for Peculate and converting the Princes Treasure...”

“...should the Boydes be accused of Peculate & Robbing the King…

“...and urged against them, especially of Peculate, as sale of Crown-Lands,...”

These seem strange to my eyes’ ear.  I have seen many early examples in Latin in my investigations.  I wonder if the actual “cases” referenced in Drummond’s work are findable, and if so, would they be in English or in Latin?

.
[edit: added link; corrected grammar]

[ Edited: 17 September 2011 08:11 PM by sobiest ]
Profile
 
 
Posted: 17 September 2011 10:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2310
Joined  2007-01-30

Drummond is using the noun peculate, now obsolete, which ‘= peculation’ (OED).

Profile
 
 
Posted: 18 September 2011 02:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4658
Joined  2007-01-03

In the “The Preface to the Reader”, there is an unusual (it may be intended to indicate the winter of 1654-1655; thus, January of 1655?) format for indicating the year

I’m thinking this may represent a confusion over when the new year starts, 1 January or 1 March. In Britain before 1752 the new year officially started on 1 March, although in many Catholic countries in Europe, which had already switched to the Gregorian calendar, the new year began on 1 January. The unusual notation may be to make it clear which January is being referred to.

Profile