Friday, 5 April 2013

Prefixed Ports

Sometimes it's pleasant just to look at a Latin verb and all its different prefixes. It is, I imagine, the same sort of pleasure you get from dressing a Barbie doll up in all her different costumes.

Take portare, which meant to carry. It came via French into English with all sorts of prefixes. There import, meaning to bring in. Originally the thing brought in was information (the foreign trade sense is only from 1500) and such information was important. Then there is of course export, to carry out, and deport, to carry away, and if you get a bit carried away with yourself, you disport yourself. You might even end up transported, or carried across. There's comportment, which is carrying yourself together. There's reporting, which is carrying information back. But there was also the French re-apporter, or carry back to, which gives us rapport meaning relationship. Similarly, the B got lost in sub-port or carry from below, and now it's just support. And pro-port became purport.

There are portfolios for carrying folios, but it's easier to just get someone to carry your folios for you, perhaps a porter. When you wear clothes you carry them on your body, hence the modern French porter, to wear, and hence pret-a-porter, or ready to wear.

Just about every prefix is portable. But there is no modern English verb to port. And moreover, it's only very distantly related to the thing that ships sail into.

Odd that.


  1. There should be a 'to port' as computer programs or games/applications can be 'ported' from one language or system to another.

  2. If you move the security for your mortgage loan from one property to another when you move, you port your mortgage. I'm not sure how long this use has been around, but it's quite a common expression.

  3. From wikipedia:

    "Portage or portaging is the practice of carrying water craft or cargo over land, either around an obstacle in a river, or between two bodies of water. A place where this carrying occurs is also called a portage."

  4. Not just Latin, we could teleport if a portmanteau was not contrary to the laws of physics.

  5. Not forgetting 'portly' - carrying weight? Possibly a result of good living and passing too much Port.....

    Laurie -

    1. I'm not certain, but I think "portly" harkens back to the idea of deportment, rather than weight--a bit of extra girth can be quite stately (and those who are considered stately often have a bit of extra girth).