Sunday, November 29, 2015

Library, liberty, liberalism, liberal arts

And in English-speaking lands, the visual rather than aural similarity between the words library, liberty, liberalism, and liberal arts has been one of the most ideologically potent results that can be imagined of a completely false etymology. I speak as a regular user of the online and alliteratively entitled Library of Liberty.
Edith Hall, "Adventures in Ancient Greek and Roman Libraries," in Alice Crawford, ed., The Meaning of the Library (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton Univ. Press, 2015), p. 15

[The root of "library"] is liber, the ancient term for the skin, bark, or rind of plants. It was used to designate the thin rind of the ancient Egyptian papyrus, and eventually, much as the term for tree trunk  caudex  was adopted in the word for a codex, the bark itself, the liber (with a short "i") became the book.
Id. at 13. (Another liber, with a long "i", meant free.)

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