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Take Our Word For It NOE No. 12  Melanie Crowley
 Sep 16, 2003 21:48 PDT 

Take Our Word For It NOE No. 12

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Howdy! (Can you tell that at least one of us spent some time in Texas
in August?)

**This Week's NOE**

Something got us to thinking about -cuse words, like accuse, excuse,
recuse. Does -cuse come from the same source in each of those words?
Let's find out.

Accuse comes from Latin causa "cause", but not as in cause and effect,
but in the same sense as the legal term "cause of action", which refers
to a lawsuit today but in general means "legal action". With that in
mind, one can see that the Latin verb accusare meant "to call someone to
account for his actions". It dates from the 13th century in English,
and came from Latin via French during the time when the Norman rulers of
England were having a great influence on the English legal system.

Now for excuse. This -cuse comes from the same source as the -cuse in
accuse. In fact, excuse means, etymologically, "without accusation".
It was formed in Latin from ex- "without" or "removal" and causa "legal
cause of action". So one was excused if a legal cause of action against
him was removed. This word came to English from French around the same
time as accuse.

Recuse is a word that folks who are not in the legal profession may not
see very often. It comes from Latin recusare "refuse", formed from
refutare "rebut" and causa "legal cause of action", so to recuse is to
rebut a legal cause of action. Today a judge may be asked to recuse
himself from a case because he has some kind of interest in it or a
connection with one of the parties, or for similar reasons. When he
does that, he is refusing to allow himself to remain on the case. This
word has the same timeline as accuse and excuse.

So have we forgotten any -cuse words? Well, there is another but it's
somewhat uncommon: incuse. As a verb it means "to impress by stamping",
like a coin. How is that related to Latin "causa"? It's not. Instead,
incuse comes from Latin incus "anvil", upon which the stamping was often

Side note: in meteorology, incus is the name for the anvil top seen on
large cumulonimbus (thunderstorm) clouds.

**Laughing Stock**

Keep sending us funny stuff! And we'll keep catching up on winners'
gift certificates :-)


We still have 2 copies of the word game "Derivation" left. Donate $75
or more and get a copy! Thanks to those who have donated

over the past couple of weeks.

**Next Issue**

We'll be back next week with a new issue of TOWFI and a NOE.

Until next time,
Take Our Word For It!
Melanie and Mike

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