Posted: 28 August 2018 09:27 PM   [ Ignore ]
Total Posts:  4142
Joined  2007-02-27

I saw a headline about an intention to depose someone. It was not clear from the headline itself which sense of depose was meant, though of course the article made the matter plain.

It made me wonder how the sense of “force to testify” arose.

The oldest English sense, per the OED, is the “remove from office” sense, which stems straight from the French and also makes immediate sense in terms of the Latin roots, which would literally meaning “put down”.

“Force to testify”, it turns out, is a newer meaning than “testify”. The OED’s etymological notes don’t mention how the “testify” sense arose, and to my mind it does not relate in an obvious way to the older meaning. Do you have any insights?

Posted: 29 August 2018 03:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Joined  2007-02-24

Forgive me if I’m off base here, but I think they come from different roots:

Posted: 29 August 2018 04:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Joined  2007-01-03

The OED explains it (although it’s an old entry and the etymology is poorly written). Eyehawk is right; they are two roots involved, but it’s very confusing. One is the Old French poser (to place). It’s the same root that gives us our verb to pose. The other is a later borrowing from Old French (frustratingly the OED doesn’t give the OF form), that ultimately comes from the Latin ponere (to place, to set down, to quote). This later borrowing brought in the idea of setting something down in writing to the word. The OED doesn’t say, but I assume the OF poser also comes from this same Latin root, only it enters English by a different route.

I wouldn’t trust the dates in the OED on this one either. Antedatings for the various senses are likely to be found.

Posted: 29 August 2018 05:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Joined  2007-01-29

Sheesh, there are other dictionaries than the OED, yez knowz.  The AHD, whose etymologies are as trustworthy as they come, sez:
a. To remove from office or power.
b. To dethrone.
2. Law To take a deposition from: Investigators will depose the witness behind closed doors.
To give testimony by affidavit or deposition.
[Middle English deposen, from Old French deposer, alteration (influenced by poser, to put) of Latin dēpōnere, to put down; see DEPONE.]

So no, there are not two roots involved, just the one.

Posted: 29 August 2018 08:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
Total Posts:  1688
Joined  2007-03-21

M-W has the same etymology. From “put down”.

Posted: 30 August 2018 12:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
Total Posts:  1318
Joined  2007-03-01

I’m curious to know how it could be possible for anyone to state authoritatively that the word comes originally from the French, rather than direct from Latin, given that everyone in the Middle Ages must have ate least listened to, and everyone literate would also have read, the sentence “Deposuit potentes de sede, et exaltavit humiles” every time they went to Vespers. Is there some argument from the form of the word? If the argument is simply that there’s an earlier sighting in French, that’s right up there with the argument that the English invented haggis.

But certainly, no English-speaker until at least a generation after the Reformation could possibly have used depose in the sense ‘deprive of authority or status’ without ”Deposuit potentes” resonating in their head.