Sufferage
Posted: 08 December 2016 07:33 AM   [ Ignore ]
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On the first page of the New York Times, above the fold, is a poignant photo of graffiti on the wall outside the building housing the artists’ colony called the “Ghost Ship” that burned trapping about 33 people to their deaths.

One sign said, “Lord, please end the sufferage” whch led me to think of the line from Princess Bride where Mandy Patinkin, playing the marvelous character Inigo Montoya “You Keep Using That Word, I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means”

Putting aside for a moment the pain of that shocking event, it led me to wonder if “sufferage” (with three syllables) was ever used to mean “suffering.” I went to OED but the entry was written in 1915 and hasn’t been updated. There it is defined as “Permission, approval” with this marvelous quote from 1650:

1650 N. Ward Discolliminium 28, I will grant him as he saith, if he will hold to his spelling, that all is now united in the Sufferage of the People, though not in their Suffrage.

that suggests that there was a difference in spelling even in the mid-17th century.

Suffrage (two syllables) agaiin in a non-updated 1915 OED entry notes that there is only one meaning of that word, to vote or elect. AHD also does not list any alternative to voting, agreeing with, supporting etc with the following etymology

[Middle English, intercessory prayer, from Old French, from Medieval Latin suffrāgium, from Latin, the right to vote, from suffrāgārī, to express support; see bhreg- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]

Suffer has a second meaning of “too allow” (as in “Suffer the little children to come unto me") but has a different etymology in OED

Etymology: < Anglo-Norman suffrir, soeffrir, -er = Old French sof(f)rir , modern French souffrir , corresponding to Provençal suffrir , so- , Italian sofferire , Spanish sufrir , Portuguese sof(f)rer < popular Latin *sufferīre , for sufferre , < suf- = sub- prefix 6 + ferre to bear.

Are these two words, Suffrage and Suffer that unrelated?

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Posted: 08 December 2016 08:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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The modern form of the word as used in the 1650 quote would be “sufferance”, but it doesn’t make as good a word-play.

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Posted: 08 December 2016 08:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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As far as I can tell they’re unrelated.

Suffer and sufferage ultimately come from the Latin suffero, meaning literally to carry under (sub + fero), but figuratively to tolerate, support.

Suffrage comes from the Latin suffragium, a vote or ballot. The root, and here I’m entering into the realm of speculation, is frag, meaning to break. A ballot originally being a fragment or chip placed in a box or pile.

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