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El­o­gio and El­e­gy

It should be ob­vi­ous, but it was­n’t to me: the Span­ish for “com­pli­ment; praise” (el­o­gio) comes from the Latin el­ogium mean­ing “in­scrip­tion; short say­ing.” The Latin el­ogium comes from the Greek elegeia, mean­ing, “el­e­gy” — from which we get that same Eng­lish word!

This should be clear, since the e‑l-o‑g of el­o­gio maps to the e‑l-e‑g of el­e­gy quite neat­ly.

But how did we get from “short say­ing” to “com­pli­ment”? Easy: the short say­ings that we used to say about oth­er peo­ple, over time — cen­turies — got nicer and nicer and nicer, un­til every­thing turns in­to a com­pli­ment. Who wants to be re­mem­bered as the nasty guy in­sult­ing every­one, any­way?


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