Daily Archives: January 7, 2009


Not necessarily a friendly word. It has a functional edge, with its apparent cube root (how mathematical) and resonances of queue and Bic, but cubes may make one think of ice, especially icicle, and the bic when it runs on to icle may put one in a pickle. The echo of tickle seems rather weak; fickle, with its f closer to the b, might come to mind sooner. Other rhymes may give a sense of excess testosterone. The shape of the word seems to mirror its object: the two c‘s and the u are shaped rather like many a cubicle seen on a floor plan, while the word as a whole looks like a side view, with the b and l forming walls (with a desk, and the c doubling as chair) and the i boxed inside, perhaps about to prairie-dog. Or perhaps about to nod off… which would be appropriate, etymologically, since that’s what a cubicle first was: a bedchamber. You see, this word doesn’t actually come from cube (which the Latins took from the Greek word for a die, as in the gaming item); it comes from Latin cubiculum, from cubare, “recline.” And, frankly, looking around an office mid-afternoon, in spite of all the hard surfaces and this hard-seeming word, you may find it hasn’t shifted very far in meaning after all…


This word has, by some, been misread as amateurization. And well may it be so: getting debt away from the professionals, if gradually. This is a complex word with an interesting mix of flavours. It has five syllables, but why should a word for such a long process be short? It begins with amor, and while it does conquer all, there’s often little love involved. The mort is more to the point, especially if the payments are too high, and you get into a tiz. The ation simply marks it as a noun, that overwhelmingly favoured word class in business documents. But francophones will appreciate the ti…ti, for indeed amortization involves a little here and a little there. One just hopes the o…o doesn’t gain significance. And where do we get this word? Via French from Latin ad “to” plus mortem “death”… the death of the loan, we hope.