October 29, 2008

race in the race

Do you think race is any factor in this race? (Larry King to Joe McCain*)
It may sound unlikely, but race and race are actually not related. The word expressing an "act of running" is of Scandinavian origin (compare Old Icelandic rás, Norwegian rås) and was also spelled "ras", "rase", and "raiss" in Middle English (according to the OED). The word referring to a "group of people ... descended from a common ancestor", on the other hand, is borrowed from Romance (French and Italian) and was spelled "race" right from the beginning (the OED lists 1547 as the year of its earliest documented use). In a sum, we're dealing with a case of homophony.

*Did McCain just pronounce infomercial as "infomertchal"?

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