Lexie and Election Electricity

“Does that answer your question, ma’am?” Ms. Khan said into her phone. I hadn’t realized she had me on speaker. She looked down at the phone. Apparently Mrs. Big was responding by text.

“Thanks, Ms. Kahn. My employer says she sees how the different meanings of spring fit together. You don’t have to explain about the coiled metal type; she sees how it bounces up like the spring of water. She has another question now.”

I squeezed the envelope of cash. “Sure. Shoot.”

“She wants to know if elect and electric are related.”

“Is it true the reason her corporation is supplying electronic voting machines for several states has less to do with profits than with swaying elections?”

Election 512px-Urna_eletrônica

She wagged her finger at me. “No you didn’t. You didn’t try to use the old ‘How did you know? I didn’t; you just told me’ trope on me. I never revealed the identity of my employer.”

“You got me there. OK. No, the two words are not related. Elect is from Latin ēlectus, past participle of ēligĕre to pick out, choose. Eligĕre breaks into ē- out, and legĕre to chose, from the Indo-European root leg-, to collect.

Electric originally meant ‘possessing the property (first observed in amber) of developing static electricity when rubbed. It comes from post-classical Latin electricus of amber, amber-like, which is from classical Latin ēlectrum amber, ultimately from Greek ēlektron.”

“If elect means to choose, it must be related to select,” she said.

“Mmm-hmm. From the Latin verb seligere with the same root, legere, preceded by se- ‘apart’ instead of ē- out. Basically the same thing. The root leg- appears in a lot of other words you wouldn’t think are related. But I’ll have another Frappuccino before we get into that.


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