The waiter tilted his head, “Where did you get that glass, ma’am? Martinis aren’t on the menu here.”
“I won’t be needing it then,” I said, tucking it into my purse. “Bring me the tart tatin and the large Ethiopian coffee, please.”
Ms. Khan passed on dessert. “Do you have contempt for my employer?” she asked.
Ms. Khan rested her chin on her hand and waited.
“Well, it turns out to be unrelated to the temp- words or to tempt and attempt.”
I turned the screen of my phone toward her. “Here’s what the OED says about the etymology:
< Latin contempt-us (u stem) scorn, < contempt- participial stem of contemnĕre to contemn v.”
“Contemn? Is that a variant of condemn?”
“Good guess,” I said, “but no. See, it comes into English from Old French, which got it from:
Latin contem(p)n-ĕre , < con- intensive + temnĕre to slight, scorn, disdain, despise.
“It means ‘to treat as of small value, treat or view with contempt; to despise, disdain, scorn, slight.’The dictionary says it’s now chiefly a literary word. I doubt that anyone has used it since the 19th century, but there’s an apt quote for today in Shakespeare. In Two Gentlemen of Verona Valentine says:
I have done penance for contemning Love.”