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shameless pleading





Lodge (a complaint)

Your call is important to us. Goodbye.

Dear Word Detective: Oh Sherlock of Syllables, can you sleuth out for me exactly why we “lodge” a complaint or an appeal, instead of “filing” one? Does it have something to do with the size or position of the building where one went to complain? I think I’d like to live in a world where the authorities are lodged in the small gate house, and not the mansion. Perhaps you can help me get this question dislodged from my brain? — Carrie C.

That’s a good question, although I can testify that the size of the office is not an accurate gauge of the damage inflicted by the bureaucrats within. Our local state motor vehicles license agency office, for example, is planted in a mousy little strip mall, housed in a tiny, fly-specked storefront that could be mistaken for a failed pizza joint. But once inside you discover that the laws of space, time and logic no longer apply, and your chances of exiting with your sanity (and driving privileges) intact are slim. I don’t think it’s any accident that the shop next door just happens to sell bicycles.

“Lodge” is both a noun and a verb, both of which appeared in English in the 13th century. The noun “lodge” comes from the Old French “loge,” which meant a variety of things, including “shelter,” “arbor,” “hut,” “covered walk” or “summer house.” That “loge” also gave us the English word “loge,” which means a booth or small compartment, and is most commonly encountered in theaters, where “loge” can refer to either a “box” (private seating area) or part of the balcony or mezzanine. A bit further back in the family tree of “lodge” we find the Medieval Latin “laubia” or “lobia,” meaning “covered walk” or “cloister,” from which we derived the English word “lobby,” as in the foyer of a building. (“Lobbyists” are so-called because they originally spent their time hanging out in the lobbies and halls of legislatures.)

A “lodge” in English was originally simply a small house, cottage or hut, often either temporary or only used seasonally for hunting, fishing, etc. The humble abode of a caretaker, gatekeeper, etc., at a large estate would also be called a “lodge,” and in the 19th century the term was frequently applied to hotels. The workshops of Freemasons were known as “lodges,” and the term still refers to both their meeting halls and the members of a local chapter.

“Lodge” as a verb initially referred, logically, to taking or giving temporary shelter, whether in a hut or tent or in someone’s home. By the 18th century, this included offering hospitality in one’s house for pay, i.e., taking in “lodgers.”

Inherent in these early uses of “to lodge” was the sense of something in movement being put or placed at rest, if only temporarily. From this sense was born “lodge” in the everyday meaning of something which had been moving coming to a sudden halt, as in a bite of food suddenly “lodged” in one’s throat (a lump which, with a bit of luck and perhaps a smidgen of Heimlich, will soon be “dislodged”).

A less dramatic sense of “lodge,” beginning in the 17th century, was “to deposit or place something in custody” of a bank, official, guardian, etc. (“I wish … Mrs. Brent could contrive to put up my books in boxes, and lodge them in some safe place,” Jonathan Swift, 1711). It was this “put in a proper place” sense of “lodge” that, in the age of developing bureaucracy in early 18th century Britain, came to mean, as the Oxford English Dictionary explains, “To deposit in court or with some appointed officer a formal statement of (an information, complaint, objection, etc.). Hence, in popular language, to bring forward, allege (an objection, etc.).” So to “lodge a complaint” is to formally place a grievance with a party or agency with some power to address it; simply posting you beef on Facebook is not “lodging” your complaint.

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