Wednesday, August 29, 2012

That Old Chesnut: Regarding Chancellor(-y)

Friends, you thought I had forgotten about everybody's favorite new blog feature that I promised I would do more than once, didn't you? Well, I have not forgotten! I have thought of writing another post often, but then I would not have an idea for a post and also I am lazy so even if I had had one, I probably would've just drank more of whatever type of beverage was most inappropriate for that time of day and watched more Korean dramas (currently viewing Creating Destiny*). BUT ANYWAY, I got a part-time job recepting in the afternoon. I have to answer the phone a lot, which I pretty much hate, but it's not so bad, since it's mostly nice-seeming religious people performing Jesus**-themed tasks. So maybe I will do a lot more blogging since it's kind of boring and heaven forbid I actually work on that article I'm supposed to be revising or doing dissertation research or studying for my prelim exams or whatever. Also, Facebook is blocked on this network, so that narrows down time-wasting activities.

This is an extremely long prelude to a talk about the origins of the word chancellor and its friends! Guys, so a chancellor is a lot like a fancy secretary now. Or sometimes Hitler.*** Or, like, an ambassador or other high-falutin' official representative. According to the venerable OED, "chancellor" originally comes to English from Latin (by way of French, as per usual), "in the Roman Empire, the cancellarius was a petty officer stationed at the bar (of lattice work) in a basilica or other law court, as usher of the court." This lattice work was known as the cancelli, which refers specifically to "the latticed screen between the choir and the body of the church." Who knew? Not me!

Look at that sweet cancello. Photo by Giovanni Dall'Orto, via Wikimedia Commons.
So the office--the position itself or the paper-pushing location--came to be known as a chancellory or a chancellery (or sometimes a chancellary). The -ery version seems to be the most common spelling today. But do you know what else, sometimes British people are lazy with their tongues (heh), and "chancellery" became "chancery" in many instances. Hence, the entire "in chancery" plot from Dickens' fabulous Bleak House (I highly recommend both the book and the 2005 BBC miniseries).**** If a case is "in chancery," it's being considered by the courts or is stuck in legal bureaucratic nonsense, basically. So chancery is a fabulous British-sounding old-timey word that may or may not have come up in my new job. It all has to do with lattice work.*****

*In case you wondered, that synopsis says the Han family moved to Canada. This is false, they live in Sydney, though the daughters do sound American or Canadian when they speak English, not Australian.)
**Regular Jesus, not Sexy Gay Jesus, unfortunately. Not so into the gays here. At least not officially.
***I'm trying to be more like the History channels and the Military channel and a lot of cable by talking about Hitler as often as possible on this blog now.
****In Chancery is also the title of the second book in Galsworthy's Forsyte Saga, which I own but haven't read--though I do recommend the 2002 miniseries, obvs, if you like depressing shit in fabulous early twentieth-century costume, and I know you do because you probably also watch Downton Abbey.
*****You caught me, I just got a job welding metal latticeworks!

1 comment:

  1. British people are totally lazy with their tongues, e.g. Leicester is pronounced "Lester". They're not big fans of syllables.