Etymology of the word "emergency".

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by universaldistress, Sep 23, 2011.

  1. universaldistress Extravagantly Introverted ... Valued Senior Member

    I was just watching "Judge Judy" and she stated that an "emergency is (when you are) bleeding from an orifice" (also said there are no dental emergencies which seemed a bit of a contradiction, but there you go).

    Now it seems interesting to me, Judy's turn of phrase. As bleeding from an orifice is indeed something "emerging" from the body, ie an emergency, I was wondering on the origins of the usage of this word. On my usual etymological site it says:

    "unforeseen occurrence requiring immediate attention," 1630s, from L. emergens, prp. of emergere (see emerge). Or from emerge + -ency." (1)

    Does anyone know anything more or have access to a more detailed etymological source that could a shed little light on to this?

    It would seem to me to be logical that if anything not usual is emerging from the body of its own accord this would indeed be classified as an emergency in most if not all cases. Though I recognise that the true origin could easily be from something different and this duality be but a coincidence.

    Lastly. I have observed other possibly erroneous dualities in words and their meanings. Has anyone else? And does anyone have any interesting examples?

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  3. universaldistress Extravagantly Introverted ... Valued Senior Member

    To have a broad knowledge and understanding of the world one must not shut off input. Learning the ins and outs of the law, even of a different country (I am British), is beneficial knowledge to possess.
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 23, 2011
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  5. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    That is not a definition of a word, that is hyperbole. This is why Judge Judy is on TV rather than in a federal, state, county or city courtroom. The consensus of the dictionary definitions of the word is, basically, "a bad situation that requires immediate action to avoid becoming very much worse."
    Did I already mention that Judge Judy would not last five minutes in a real courtroom... oh sorry, I guess I did. The word "immediate" in my definition above has quite a bit of leeway. If you're fighting a war and the enemy has just put together an army and they've begun marching on foot to your country, which is 500 miles away, that is certainly an emergency, but you have at least a few hours to decide how to respond, rather than jumping out of bed and issuing orders. Likewise, if a child with an out-of-control Super Screaming Wacky Whizzer (for all of us who miss "Doug" on Saturday morning) breaks your jaw it's not quite the same as if he glued your nostrils and mouth shut with epoxy and you can't breathe, but it's still an emergency and you'll need to be reassembled by an oral surgeon within about 36 hours or your mouth might not ever be the same.
    I find to be as good an etymological reference as anything else that's available for free, if only because it usually lists more than one. Unfortunately all the etymologies for "emergency" refer back to "emerge," which IMHO does not do justice to the word's modern usage. It has moved far away from the origin of the emergency, i.e., "something that comes out of something else," and is now all about the appropriate response, i.e., "We gotta do something pretty dadgum quick or we'll be real sorry."

    That said, "emerge" does not mean exclusively "to come out of (something else)." It means, more generally, to arise, to develop, to come into existence. The notion of requiring an immediate response is a more recent accretion to the definition of "emergency," which makes a rift between that word and the word it was built from. This is hardly unusual in our language or any other. The Chinese word for "thing" is dong xi, "east-west." Figure that out!
    I think you're focusing too narrowly on the current, stricter definition of "emerge," which is limited to things like babies being born. As I noted, "emerge" went off on this path as "emergency" went off on its own and they are no longer logically related. Just as "lord" and "lady" no longer mean "the person who guards the bread" and "the person who kneads the bread."
    I'm not quite sure what you're driving at. How about a couple more of your own examples to set the stage?
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  7. Walter L. Wagner Cosmic Truth Seeker Valued Senior Member

    Fraggle is quite correct.

    Did you overlook the fact that women tend to have bleeding from an orifice on a monthly basis, and they often times find this to be an 'emergency' they have to deal with? That is the most common emergency for a woman, I believe.
  8. universaldistress Extravagantly Introverted ... Valued Senior Member

    You do realise her TV courtroom is in effect a real small claims court with Judith Sheindlin having real and final legal judgement over the cases she presides over there?

    I am not here to defend Judge Judy, I couldn't give a rats ass. But I can't ignore the inaccuracy in your assessment of JJ's skillset:

    Judith Sheindlin's legal career:

    Sheindlin passed the New York Bar Exam in 1965, the same year as her graduation, and was hired as a corporate lawyer for a cosmetics firm.[2] Within two years, she became dissatisfied with her job and left to raise her two children. She was soon made aware of a position in the New York court system as a prosecutor in the family courts.[2] In her role, Sheindlin prosecuted child abuse cases, domestic violence, and juvenile crime.[2]

    "By 1982, Sheindlin's no-nonsense[2] attitude inspired New York Mayor Ed Koch to appoint her as a judge in criminal court.[2] Four years later, she was promoted to supervising judge in the Manhattan division of the family court.[2] She earned a reputation as a tough judge, notorious for fast decision making and wise-cracking judgments.[3]"

    In February 1993 Sheindlin's outspoken reputation made her the subject of a Los Angeles Times article,[5] profiling her as a woman determined to make the court system work for the common good.[2] She was subsequently featured in a segment on CBS's 60 Minutes, bringing her national recognition.[2] This led to her first book, Don't Pee on My Leg and Tell Me It's Raining, published in 1996. She retired as a criminal court judge that same year, after hearing over 20,000 cases.[2] After her retirement, Sheindlin continued to receive increasing amounts of public attention.[2]

    Slightly different emphasis for "emerge" on my etymological site (out-sink):

    1560s, from M.Fr. émerger, from L. emergere "rise out or up, bring forth, bring to light," from ex- "out" (see ex-) + mergere "to dip, sink" (see merge). The notion is of rising from a liquid by virtue of buoyancy. Related: Emerged; emerging.

    This is quite close to the meaning JJ suggests. Bring forth (out of body). Bring to light (light is outside the body). Rise out or up (out of the body). Rising from a liquid (internal body) by virtue of buoyancy. I do see connections between JJ's liquids leaving the body and the word "emerge" as it was in Middle French (is M.Fr. Middle French?).

    This rift could have occurred as doctors started to use the term to describe a serious ailment like bleeding, and then shifted in meaning towards a serious situation? Though I do recognise the fact it could just as realistically have come from the meaning "to arise" as in a dire situation arising. I suppose we would have to read about the first usages of the word. Was it coined by doctors or scholars or police or politicians . . .

    I do like to try and find links between words or phrases and their meanings which are very often nice mental exercises but probably far from the truth.

    I would love to, now let me see . . .
  9. universaldistress Extravagantly Introverted ... Valued Senior Member

    It is more of an emergency for the man I think

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  10. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Sure. Welcome to America. Obviously, she has two often-conflicting goals:
    • 1. To dispense justice.
    • 2. To get good audience ratings so her contract will be renewed.
    Not her skillset so much as her attitude. Which, as I just admitted, is for the audience and she presumably takes care not to let it interfere with the service she provides to the litigants.
    Many words have undergone considerable shifts in meaning over the millennia. The Indo-European word for "five," phen-que, is clearly an inflection of or accretion onto the word for "finger." In Chinese, jong, with the basic meaning of "center/central" is used to mean "China/Chinese," and xi, with the basic meaning of "west/western" is used to mean "foreign."
  11. Cifo Day destroys the night, Registered Senior Member

    I think we can pretty much assume that Judge Judy was not expounding on the etymology of the word emergency, but was simply repeating a well-known medical adage:

    Someone bleeding [unexpectedly] from an orifice (ears, eyes, nose, mouth, navel, urethral orifice, anus, etc) should seek medical attention immediately.

    For example, someone in a car accident says s/he is okay, but is bleeding from his/her ears. This person should seek medical attention immediately.

    The etymology of emergency is from something "emerging" -- the same idea as something "cropping up" -- it is something that appears unexpectedly. It's the unexpected. The word seems to have taken on a pejorative sense.

    Thus, a woman's menstrual flow is expected, therefore its appearance is not an emergency. But if the menstrual flow is more severe than expected, then the excess is an emergency (in both the literal and figurative sense). Also, if the menstrual flow appears on schedule, but the woman is without a sanitary napkin, then the lack of a napkin, and not the menstrual flow, is the emergency.

    I would sooner believe that the People's Court is not a real small claims court, but that the parties agreed, in lieu of taking it to trial, to appear on the show (a small claims court simulation), where Judge Judy acts more like an arbitrator, making a decision that both parties have previously agreed to abide by.
  12. kevinalm Registered Senior Member

    Isn't 'emergent' a common medical term? As in the patient presented with emergent appendicitis. Maybe that gave rise to the medical use of 'emergency'. On the other hand, maybe it was the other way around. For what it's worth.
  13. universaldistress Extravagantly Introverted ... Valued Senior Member

    If you read through her legal career again you will notice her "outspoken", "no nonsense" attitude has been a mainstay throughout her legal career, and in fact the reason why she is on TV, and not a consequence of being on TV.

    I promise to get back with some examples of what I am driving at as regards the "dualities" of meaning for words

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  14. universaldistress Extravagantly Introverted ... Valued Senior Member

    That is plausible. If legal documents are signed that give Judy legal powers of a small claims court "and the decisions are final" and the litigants are not permitted to claim elsewhere once money is handed over then it isn't far off. I do admit there is definitely going to be differences with the "real" thing but it serves the purpose of being a court of law, of a sort that has real legal powers, and once people sign on the dotted line they are legally bound.
  15. Cifo Day destroys the night, Registered Senior Member


    By "erroneous dualities" do you mean "false cognates" -- words (sometimes in different languages) that seem very similar but have different meanings and/or origins?
  16. Me-Ki-Gal Banned Banned

    Wonder words are worth consideration . Words that were traded for the purpose of trading at crossroads in history . Shared words due to the need to communicate as to do business . Construction terminology have been known to be shared works also even still emerging new to this day as new technical methodologies and products are developed . It is surprising how even trying to figure out what a French Architect talking building is understandable from my American tongue . Figure out a limited amount of words used and the conversation comes clear real fast by the usage of shared building terminology . I guess necessity in industry might be the culprit that causes this , Or it could also be because of products and installation manuals have played a roll in sharing industry standards
  17. keith1 Guest

    Emergency seems to appear in the 1600's, long after the terms "urgent", "emerge", emergent", etc., which would hint to urban slang of medical field origin. Perhaps "M-Urgent" as to "medically urgent" to denote one gurney priority label, over another less urgent patient, in an mass casualty situation found in an urban event.
  18. universaldistress Extravagantly Introverted ... Valued Senior Member


    Remember these dualities are within one's OWN interpretation and are probably way off

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    (please remember this isn't a serious study and more of a bit of observational fun (I realise some are word plays more than what I was referring to above, but thought it may be fun anyway.))

    Exorcise the demons of dis-health from your body= exercise

    There follows a couple of excerpts from a couple of poems which explore some of these ideas (written by myself some time ago). I'll highlight relevant examples.


    Placement of our love,
    Must have a bearing,
    Heart put on left,
    as in the same the same way,
    as a husband places his band, his wedding band,
    on his left hand,
    to protect it and him,
    So how do we protect our bodies from disease,
    To eradicate in a modern world,
    The influence of the past,
    And the orientation of our awareness,
    That chooses one side of the cerebrum,
    Do we drink a vile mixture,
    From a vial of elixir,
    Or do we dis-gust our lungs,
    to protect from air borne germs,
    As the ill and disgusting pass,
    Will this stop the brows adjoining,
    and the hair from growing,
    for survival in the wild like a wolf,
    You were a wolf,
    I swear you werewolf,
    Its improbable,
    But my babble is true,
    With luck your affiction is but temporary,
    As its far from contemporary,
    The pros and the cons of life are for weighing,
    And some would say we are stupid,
    To drink ourselves to a stupor,
    Stupored are we,
    As we drink the stout for its pure properties,
    To make our bodies of purity,
    For death to belay,
    Or maybe waylay,
    For to live through our morndays survive,
    The earth we graze and the sun doesn’t rise,
    The earth simply turns,
    Yet we want to reach our sunset days,
    This star that inspires us and feeds us alike,
    We decide we are going and we know that you will come,
    For we cast ourselves to the stars.

    Morndays- morn is beginning of day- Monday is beginning of week.


    Has mankind’s weakness from past days,
    Created the language we use today.

    What is the meaning of our violence?
    What is the function of our fear?
    How do we react to the fury?
    And is there compunction. Here?

    Is our physicality designed to induce,
    The physical reactions of physical abuse?

    As I swear on my life,
    I curse yours to strife,
    Do I worry you enough,
    For adrenaline to rise?
    And of its effect do you find,
    A loss of control?
    Bodily functions lose the capacity,
    As you say,
    “You are taking the piss out of me.”
    Literally is a word,
    That is applied to your outburst,
    And as you wander away,
    “Piss off” you say,
    And the direction of your inflection,
    Seems unclear,
    But due to the fact,
    Our squabble seems like madness,
    Talking to ones own groin,
    Wouldn’t be unexpected,
    As your urine’s rejected.

    Further more on the subject,
    Of the adrenaline effect,
    And it’s leaking into phrases,
    We use through the days of our life,

    We don’t question their sources,
    If we look back to the times,
    When our language was forming,
    What was the situ,
    Of the meaning?

    So when a community everyday lives with crippling disease,
    It would seem plausible that their problems,
    Would leak into sayings,
    If a joke were told, would I piss myself?
    Would my sides, actually split?
    Maybe it would feel like it.

    Some say bad things,
    Are they taking the Michael?
    Shooing from your shoulder,
    Your guardian Archangel?

    Breaking your balls could have dire effect,
    Will cancers grow if you choose to eject?
    If they persist,
    Can you resist?
    But as you give way,
    Get knotted you say.

    As his muscles bunch up,
    From the rebuke that you throw
    Tied do they get as they tire of shaking?
    With fear are they quaking?
    And some to earn an everyday living,
    They must labour their body,
    Worked your guts out you say?
    This can only lead the way to operations of pain,
    In this life a hernia to add to the catalogue,
    Acquisitions of injuries,
    Ever is? a full recovery.

    See you again,
    Do you press on?
    A vendetta unforgotten,
    As you walk away,
    Wet trousers an all,
    To anger I fall,
    And a fear of losing, always is my choosing,
    But is it a choice,
    Or am I losing the temper of my attitude,
    As you try to elude,
    I press on the attack,
    With fear of the violence, does an arsehole go slack?
    Yes some bullies when confronted back down,
    And as you frown,
    Look back at the man, who shits himself,
    Can he control his reaction to the language in place?

    Surely English is a product of its past,
    Sometimes always, we can't see past our nose,
    No rules are fast,
    Fastened to the use of the terms of an age,
    Between the health of our youth,
    And the intellect of resisting disease,
    But in the past are these?
    Today some of the former,
    And just a little of the weak producing epiphany,
    But not black and white,
    Dismal and grey.

    Now false health most live,
    And as the future begins,
    Riding on a wave accumulated by ideas,
    Extension of being?
    Alive and seeing,
    Youth extends does the secret it bend,
    Of life and a sequence, that governs our path,
    Cognition of the benefits and the cons,
    Of fate, of genes,
    Are their cons as we fulfil our own roles?

    Do the sheep use the old language,
    As the menial tasks are still lucrative?
    What about when a machine fills the last space?
    What will the dimmer on their lives base?
    Entertainment for the masses,
    The signs are there,
    As some stand on their shoulders,
    Old language use they scold,
    Fuck off,
    Underneath them a bomb smoulders,
    Happiness in the future requires inclusion of all in this fusion,
    The race will grow,
    Piss off,
    Dick head,
    Nose running,
    Toffee nose bastard,
    Be it a wolf or even a sheep,
    To manipulate money from the pocket,
    Can you sleep?
    Will I have the resources to fund mine?
    Hierarchy of conscience,
    Who teaches the lesson?
    Some secluded can hand out a blessing,
    Move through life, no messing,
    Old language,
    Old sayings,
    What game are you playing!!!!?
    If you know what you want then fucking lucky are you!!
    And a use of disgrace to emphasise meaning,
    Understand this!
    If the ends are worth attaining,
    Use your fucking brain then,
    And thank a god if you believe in,
    The gift you are given,
    Because a life that you live in,
    Is yours for the taking,
    Most just faking,
    Some snakes in the queue in front of you
    What are you going to do?
    With the language, you use.

    You use to get something,
    One word has a meaning,
    But as you string together,
    A sentence,
    Every letter is composed,
    To gain your desire,
    Money, fame, happiness, children,
    There is always one better,
    One came before,
    Of pessimism I bore,
    Will you lure your circumstance?
    Into the form of a future,
    To form this life you may choose words to convey your feeling,
    I and also with every type of mind,
    Would like to find.

    But the means can justify the end,
    I can say fuck you, piss off, dick head,
    So can every human who’s lived,
    But to use a new sequence from an infinite selection,
    Is a beautiful thing.
    What are you going to do?
  19. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Phonetic coincidence. The first is Greek, from ex- (which it shares with Latin) and orkizein, to make somebody swear an oath. The second is Latin, from the same ex- plus arcere, to restrain.
    Another coincidence. The first is Norse "master of the house," from hus and bond, a participle of the verb "to live." "His" is one of many inflections of the family of pronouns beginning with H. (He/him/her, etc. If we hadn't gratefully borrowed "they/them/their" from the Norsemen even our third-person plural pronoun would start with H.) "Band" is an inflection of the verb "bind."
    Coincidence. "Vial" is a variation on "phial," whereas "vile" is a French word.
    Another coincidence. "Gust" is a respectable native Germanic word for "wind", whereas the root gust-in "disgust" is Latin for "taste," as in "gustatory" and Spanish mucho gusto.
    Accident of spelling. The "were" in "werewolf" is an otherwise long-obsolete English word for "man," cognate with Latin vir. The proper pronunciation of the word is WEER-wolf, not WHERE-wolf or WHIRR-wolf. The fact that it's spelled the same as one of the inflected forms of the verb "to be" is just the common problem that our alphabet has only 26 letters but our language has many more phonemes than that.
    At last! You've stumbled onto a genuine pair! "Stupid" is the adjective describing a person or thing in a state of "stupor." We have a long list of such pairs (most of which are not quite so obviously related), including fervid/fervor -- rancid/rancor -- torpid/torpor -- valid/valor. Of course these are all Latin words. Latin has a much more complex system of inflections than English.
    Now that's a stretch that hardly deserves the dignity of a response.

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    I can't even find any such word as "mornday." However, surely everyone with enough interest in linguistics to bother coming to this subforum has either learned or figured out that the days of the week are Sun's Day, Moon's Day, Tiwa's Day, Woden's Day, Thor's day, Fria's day and Saturn's Day. We borrowed Saturn from the Romans, but the rest are venerable old Germanic names.
    It's the same word, which, BTW, is French.

    I can't make sense out of your highlighting in the rest of the passage.

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