longage

When the pandemic arrived, we all expected shortages: toilet paper, medicine, paper towels, fresh vegetables, toilet paper, imported electronics, coffee, toilet paper, oil, voyages, fun, and toilet paper, among other things. But what we may not have anticipated were the longages.

I don’t mean the long ages, as in endless expanses of time, except yeah, I do mean that too, because we have a longage of available time. Just ask the managers of people who are still employed; they generally seem to believe no one has anything better to do, and yet simultaneously to think if they don’t hold their employees hostage to a longage of work they will just skive off and, uh, go for walks to see the foliage or something. 

What, in fact, many of us do do is try to avoid shortages of items by buying on line and having them delivered, resulting in a longage of mileage for people in the haulage and porterage business and a longage of packages in the lobbies of buildings – and a longage of some kinds of items in our homes. At this time last year, my wife and I had two devices for making coffee and two kinds of coffee beans in bags ready for the making; now we have four different devices and a dozen kinds of beans. 

We also have, in spite of our shortage of storage, an increasing longage of wines of various vintages. And our stacks of books waiting to be read have grown like the skyscrapers that continue to sprout fungally around us here in downtown Toronto – construction is “essential,” even in the ice age, and if you’re in the building trade here and now you have a longage of work adding to the longage of office and dwelling space. If, to take advantage of my longage of spare time, I go for a stroll, I often encounter a shortage of sidewalk space because the construction is hoarding it up.

In short, many people have a longage of work hours, and many have a longage of leisure time and leisure devices and the various baggage of adultage; many – especially those with a shortage of employment – also have a shortage of funds, while a few people (Bezos, Gates, and the ilk) have a considerable longage thereof, thanks to their leverage on percentages. And everything seems to be overage and underage and never average. It’s easy to get discouraged and to disengage.

This word longage is not of my coinage; it already existed in our language, though it’s not often seen. Wiktionary assures me it’s in informal use in economics (“A shortage of supply is a longage of demand”), while the Oxford English Dictionary has never heard of it, except as a Middle English variant spelling of language. (Oxford does inform me that shortage has been with us since the mid-1800s and appeared first in the USA.) 

But Wikipedia knows the word… OK, it knows Longages. Which is the name of a commune in the department of Haute-Garonne, 35 kilometres south of Toulouse. Longages has been around a long time. The town website says that the name comes from a Gallo-Roman root, longaticum campus, meaning ‘long field’; the only catch with that is that longaticum isn’t proper Latin, and the only search results I’ve found for it so far are as the Latin form of the name of the Slovenian town Logatec, a Latin word itself apparently derived from a Celtic root. But one Jacques Lacroix, looking at the many French place names that have Long- in them, has reckoned in his article “Le thème gaulois longo- dans les noms de lieux” that it traces to a Celtic root (France was Celtic before it was overrun by Romans, and its place names and many other parts of its language – including its weird way of saying 80 – have considerable Celtic pentimento). The Celtic root in question, longo-, relates to boats and other vessels. Many of these Long- places are nowhere near where you could use a boat, but Lacroix views the usage as more figurative, relating to topographical forms. In addition, for names with -ag- he cites research connecting it to Germanic awja ‘humid meadow’ (or, as he gets to it ere long, ‘swamp’). So, in his view, Longages gets its name from being on a hillside dominating a plain between two rivers. (Google Street View makes it look pretty flat, but I dunno.) The possibility that this Celtic root long- comes from Latin navis longa, as is sometimes suggested (though not by Lacroix!), is beside the point, though it would be an interesting long way around.

Yes, yes, that’s a longage of verbiage and gymnastics on a tangent about historical onomastics. Well, what. I have a longage of time and a longage of resources. And what’s your hurry?

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