Word of the Week
When I watch the old family comedies from the years just before the Lonely Revolution, one thing that strikes me is how often the comedy arises from two simultaneous conditions: the first, that the sexes frustrate each other; the second, that the sexes take real DELIGHT in each other. I'm not talking about anything too racy, there. I'm talking about how much fun it should be, in a healthy culture, for older boys and girls to be around each other, and men and women. I saw a lot of this DELIGHT in my big family (39 first cousins, 28 aunts and uncles, more than half of them living in my home town). It wasn't that they all had great marriages — they didn't. But they had fun being men and being women — or being boys and being girls, teasing each other, flirting innocently — and what better practice does a kid get than by teasing and joking with a cousin of the opposite sex? I have a strong memory of my Uncle Beau, shimmying almost to the floor to get under the Limbo Stick, while the girls were laughing at how silly he looked. Isn’t that one thing that boys and men do all the time — behave in a silly way, to make the girls laugh?
DELIGHT is close to MIRTH, which we have little of these days — MIRTH, which I've called joy's country cousin. Old time commercials were of two general kinds: Here's a product and here's the evidence why it's great; here's a product, and how much fun it is to have! Surliness, smugness, crudity, and flippancy didn't sell, it seems. Well, it wasn't long before advertisers tried out the crudity, anyhow. And by the way — fellow Christians, enough with the theological book readings for young people, already. Dances, provided that you don’t object to them, socials, ball games, dances, concerts, dances — those are what we need. DELIGHT for the young, not mopey super-serious philosophy all the time; which, as far as I've seen, doesn't get people married.
Our word DELIGHT has nothing to do with LIGHT; it's a false guess that showed up in printing in the Renaissance, by analogy with words that ended in -IGHT. Again, that's evidence that the GH was no longer pronounced, when you see it inserted where it never was before. For a GH really was pronounced, once upon a time, like the CH in Scottish LOCH: so a KNIGHT was a K-NEEHHT, with that CH sound before the T. Our word DELIGHT was spelled, correctly enough, DELITE in Middle English. Chaucer's epicure the Franklin believes that DELITE, or pleasure, is perfect happiness. He’s wrong about that, but it sure does beat surliness. The word comes from Latin DELECTARE, to DELIGHT; sometimes with a suspicious sense: to ENTICE. The -CT- in French was reduced to T, and that’s where we get our word from, along with the thousands of other words the Norman French brought with them when they conquered England, after the C sound had vanished before the T. In case you’re wondering, in Italian, CT and PT were assimilated to TT, with both T’s pronounced: DILETTO. The word seems to have fallen together with the unrelated word DILECTUS, the past participle of DILIGO, I CHOOSE, I LOVE. That’s not a bad coincidence, because you DELIGHT in what you LOVE, in what you esteem as excellent, as — CHOICE.
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