Wednesday, April 9, 2008

ditto // quibble

After typing "ditto" into a text message, I paused in the realization that I have no idea the background of this word.

How did I never come to question this strange little word? I understand its meaning as, "what you just said"; "I echo that sentiment"; but just where does ditto come from?

My immediate assumption was that it couldn't be a Latinate word: it lacks the sophistication of words from Latin. Latinate words are words like "mellifluous"; "magnanimous". Anglo-Saxon derivatives include "rock".

Of course, a couple years ago I assumed the same about the innocuous cutesy, "quibble", only to find that, in fact, quibble comes from Latin. A petty or frivolous objection or complaint, quibble's exact derivation remains unknown, though speculation exists. It is thought to be from the now obsolete "quib", equivocation, which comes from quibus, the dative and ablative plural form of "qui", meaning, who? or what? Basically, all that boils down to is this image: the incessant asking of "what? what? what?" "qui? qui? qui?" -- a quibble.

Upon consulation of the OED, I found that once again, Latin's reach slipped by me: ditto is from Latin.

Now I think, how could I not see?? This word originated from Italian, a variant of detto, emerging in the seventeenth century. Detto, "said", derives from Latin dictus, a past particple of dicere, "to say". So, it turns outs, that ditto is, in reality, a very Latinate word, and very clearly means "said": "what you said".

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