11-Jul-08 (Created: 11-Jul-08) | More in 'Humanities Current'

Did you say "Unrecumbent"?

"...here and there a disregarded four-footed beast stood as if petrified in unrecumbent sadness" wrote George Eliot. I labored where I heard "unrecumbent". No reason to suppose they are related, but that sounded like "recombinant" DNA. Those simple structures that combine with each other to form complex structures.

It turns out there are a family of words around "recumbent":

recumbent, recumbency, recumbently

All, on lookup, seem to have derived from the Latin root "cubare" or "recumbere" meaning "lying down like a recumbent or decumbent vine". Technically, it appears hence, "bent" has nothing to do with the meaning and only a coincidence that the suffix of "ent" being added to "cumb". However the association with "bent", I suspect, is stronger suggesting an influence unrelated. If not for the "bent" I wonder if "recumbent" would have been, however infrequently, used as often.

What about ..

cumber, cumberment, cumbrance
encumber, encumberment, encumbrance

These, I am reading, have derived from Celtic/French "combre" meaning "hindrance".