My wife, Aina, said to me this morning, “You look skinnier.”
I said, “But I don’t weigh any less.”
“That’s the curse of running,” she replied.
Of course I heard her correctly, and knew she meant that I was gaining muscle while losing fat. But I can’t ever resist also hearing incorrectly, just for fun: in this case, “That’s the cursive running.” So I said, “Interestingly, cursive comes from a Latin root meaning ‘running’.”
She laughed. “See?”
Indeed, running is fluid and all joined together, just like writing that is all joined together: a sequence of curves and lines. But one may stop or stumble in running, and rather more so may one stop and stumble in writing. I sometimes lose my place – because my m’s and n’s tend to have points rather than humps, a word like community makes me stop and count how many points I’ve written. And if I had to write unununium often it would certainly have me cursing! Even civility can give me trouble (the word, I mean, not the practice) – if my aim were to join all the letters together, I would surely curse iv. But at least I can write cursively, which seems to be a dying art: it’s just not the type of communication preferred by those native to keyboards – a pity; they lose some style with their digits.
But what has running to do with cursing anyway? Aside from what you might say when you are cut off by a car, or nearly run down by a cyclist, or obstructed by oblivious walkers, or almost tripped by a dog on a long lead, I mean. What in the fluid lines of a runner and the fluid lines of handwriting has anything to do with malediction?
Nothing at all but the sound and shape of the word, it would seem. The Latin source of cursive is cursivus, “running”, from currere, “run” (as in current, for instance), while the English word curse (the antonym of blessing) is a lexical orphan: like dog (but unlike cur), it has no known cognates in other languages. Well, of course, we can only trace what we have in print – the curse of relying on the written word.