Daily Archives: February 25, 2016

ablute

The dirty things we do for money. Lucre is called filthy, but while that’s not ludicrous, it’s really the rolling in the mud we do for the loot that pollutes us. Sometimes our solutions are nothing but soil from a slough. If we wish to ablate it or even abate it, we must ablute it – and ourselves.

Ablute! Does that wash with you? If so, what does it wash you with? Ab initio it has that ab, ‘from’, but how do you play that lute? Can you be resolute? Or is it muddy?

Well. It comes from Latin lutum, ‘mud, filth’. But just as in English you can core and peel an apple, and having done so leave it with neither, in Latin you can mud things and leave them immaculate – luere, the verb from lutum, can mean ‘wash, clean, remove mud’. From it we get ablute, elute, and for that matter dilution and the better-known noun partner to our verb, ablution.

But we also get pollute. What a dirty trick. Mudding can also mean adding mud. It’s like asking someone to dust the room with a feather duster and instead they dust it with confectioner’s sugar. What is the solution then? How do we solve it? Can we dissolve it? Be careful with the dissolution into solution – there is no washing available in that; it comes from solvere, a different root. Absolution for the culprit may involve ablution. But not of the room – that would make a sticky situation; better to sweep it. Then wash your hands.

That’s nice clean work, as it were. Do an absolutely spotless job and you get a blue ribbon. It sure beats flinging lutum in hopes some loot will come your way. That’s a brutal thing to do. Best to abstract and ablute yourself.