Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Adults and Adultery

You don't have to commit adultery to be an adult, but you do need to have been an adolescent.

I was rather surprised to find that the words adult and adultery have nothing to do with each other, apart from the prefix ad-, which hardly counts.

Adultery comes from the Latin ad-altarare, where the second half is where we got the English word alter. Originally, it just meant that something had been changed and therefore falsified. From that you got the idea of corruption, to which was added (by the French) the notion of corrupting the marriage bed. Mind you, it's important to remember that the marriage bed can be corrupted by husband and wife having sex simply because they enjoy it. This is a sin. Even Chaucer says so in the Parson's Tale.

The thridde spece of Auowtrie is som tyme bitwixe a man and his wyf..whan they take no reward in hire assemblynge but oonly to hire flesshly delit.

I am confident that none of the readers of this pure blog would ever be so evil as to make sex enjoyable for themselves or others.

Meanwhile, there was another Latin verb alescere, which meant to be nourished. By putting an ad- on the beginning you got adolescere, which meant to grow up, and that meant that somebody in the process of growing up was adolescent. The past participle of the verb was adultus, which just means having grown up.

You can also, according to the OED, commit adultery by being a bishop when you shouldn't be. This means that I now have plans for this afternoon.

The Inky Fool gives in to temptation

P.S. There's a very kind review of The Horologicon here.


  1. Delightful extrapolation of ad-ult-whatever. May you sinfully enjoy your afternoon!

  2. Careful: don't adulterate yourself.

  3. Hey Mark, I started my blog and the first article I did was a review of The Horologicon. Love if you'd check it out! thecuriouscreature.blogspot.com

  4. That's very kind of you. I'll put up a link from this post.

  5. I go past that Banksy picture on the bus at least twice a week! (Just sayin'...)

  6. May your bishoply experience end more satisfactorily than many adulterous experiences do.

  7. Where is the big Like button!