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The Nature of Words
October 2014

In the lingering still-hot-in-Texas summer days of September, when I come home in the evening, I divest myself of office clothing in favor of shorts and a light top.


The root of this verb, vest, which first did apply to clothing oneself, came into usage around the end of the 16th century, from the Medieval Latin vestire, to dress, and the Latin investire, to clothe.

A noun related to this but 300 years older is vestments, from the middle to late 13th century, from the Medieval Latin vestimentum, priestly robe. Those ecclesiastical institutions of a more formal bent do still today use vestments for the clergy.

Today the verb invest has much broader uses than merely to cover one's body: to put money to use in something offering potential profitable returns; to devote time or talent for a purpose or to achieve something; to furnish literally, to clothe with power, authority or rank; or to endow with a quality.

The noun vest, a sleeveless garment worn by men over a shirt and under a coat, was purportedly introduced by Charles II. The British appellation for such a sleeveless garment that is waist length and buttons in the front is waistcoat. In the late 19th century, the phonetic spelling of this garment became weskit. I can still remember my delight at entering Camp Fire Girls in first grade, as a Bluebird, wearing a red weskit with a white blouse and blue skirt.

Off on a rabbit trail, as usual, I wondered how the word vestige is related. Meaning a remnant or reminder of something that no longer exists, it came into usage in the middle 16th century, from the Latin vestigium, meaning footprint.

Casting thoughts of clothing and footprints aside, investing your time and talents in a community of interest such as AAERT does indeed pay dividends.

- Laurel Stoddard, CET


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