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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.

Pin money

 Something found on internet actually true, film at 11.

Dear Word Detective: Recently I read an explanation of the origin of the term “pin money” on a Facebook page. Included in the explanation was a “fact” that way back whenever, pins were only sold on two days of the year (January 1st and 2nd). This sounds pretty ridiculous so I await confirmation (or not) from you. — Shelley Thomas.

Thanks for a neat question. All of a sudden I feel like I’m back in 1996, when nearly every question I received came with a colorful story involving the inexplicable behavior of people, as you put it so well, “way back whenever.” And it just dawned on me that Facebook is, among other things, the new America Online, i.e., the prime vector for urban legends and silly stories about language. Makes perfect sense.

In this case, however, the story that is making the rounds on Facebook is, as weird as it sounds, largely true. The Reverend Dr. E. Cobham Brewer, author of the original Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable in 1870, included an entry on “pin money” which read: “Long after the invention of pins, in the fourteenth century, the maker was allowed to sell them in open shop only on January 1st and 2nd. It was then that the court ladies and city dames flocked to the depots to buy them, having been first provided with money by their husbands. When pins became cheap and common, the ladies spent their allowances on other fancies, but the term pin money remained in vogue.” Brewer had an unfortunate tendency to repeat fables, but in this case he was on solid ground. Apparently, pins were sufficiently expensive and in such short supply in the 14th century that Parliament actually passed a special law that indeed restricted their sale to the first two days of January each year.

In fact, until mass production in the 19th and 20th centuries, the common straight “pin” (from the Latin “pinna,” feather, specifically its sharp point) was much more expensive than it is today, and more useful in the typical household where clothing and cloth furnishings were more apt to be sewn than bought. It is also true that from the 16th century on, husbands were expected to give their wives an allowance (referred to as “pin money”), usually a substantial amount, with which to buy clothing and manage the household. The amount and terms of the “pin money” were often written into the marriage contract, and the legal status of “pin money” was codified in English law. Such “pin money” was often the only actual cash the wife received from her husband, was considered her personal property, and served as a sort of safety net at a time when women had few legal rights. There were even legal cases where, upon the death of the husband or dissolution of the marriage, the wife was awarded “pin money” that she was owed (“On difference between him and his lady about settlement of 200 l. per annum, pin-mony in case of separation, she upon affidavit of hard usage, and that she went in fear of her life, prayed security of the peace against him, which was granted,” 1674).

“Pin money” was never intended to be spent entirely on pins, no matter how expensive they might have been; the term was simply verbal shorthand for “household allowance.” What’s interesting about the term “pin money” is that it originally meant a hefty chunk of change. But with the dramatic fall in the price of pins, a literal interpretation led to “pin money” becoming synonymous with “a trivial amount of money” or “petty cash” (“If you did find yourself short of pin money you … could get yourself a job,” 1978). Of course, one person’s “pin money” can be another’s daily bread, as many artists and writers know all too well (“The late Rose Terry Cooke, popular as her writings were, never made more than pin money with her pen,” 1892).

Range (stove)

I’ll stick with my Hasbro EZ Bake, thanks.

Dear Word Detective: Most of the senses of “range” have to do with either physical distance or area (e.g., the range of an aircraft, firing range, mountain range) or figurative distance (e.g., vocal range, range of prices). However, there’s one sense of “range” that I don’t see how it fits in: a stove with burners on top and an oven below. Am I missing something here? Some long-lost marketing campaign tied to “home on the range”? I don’t see how the “stove” meaning is “in range of” the other meanings. — Phil Fernandez.

That’s a darn good question. Speaking of ranges, any House Hunter fans out there? You know, the HGTV show where people pretend to buy houses? Anybody else notice that lately the shows seem to be following a very unimaginative script? “I don’t care for these countertops.” “I need a man cave to brew my beer.” “That closet looks haunted.” “This range isn’t stainless steel.” It’s gotten to the point where you can sit on the couch and shout the lines like an audience at The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

To explain how “range” came to mean “cooking stove,” we really have to start with the word “stove” itself and the evolution thereof. When “stove” first appeared in English in the 15th century, probably from Dutch or German roots, it meant “heated room,” i.e., a “sweating room” or steam bath. “Stove” was later applied to a bedroom or other “normal” room in the house that was heated with some sort of small furnace. By the end of the 16th century, “stove” was being applied to the heating apparatus itself, both those used to heat rooms and those used for cooking. Although today we think of cooking when we hear “stove,” small heating stoves are still used in many parts of the world, and our modern “space heaters” are descendants of the early stoves used to heat individual rooms.

“Range” first appeared in English in the late 14th century, formed from the same Germanic roots that gave us “rank.” The initial meaning of “range” was “a line or row of people, animals or things, particularly a row of soldiers.” This “row of things” sense gave us “mountain ranges” as well as “range” used to mean a large area or stretch of ground, especially one used for a particular purpose (“firing range,” “testing range,” etc.). “Range” was also used to mean a set of things falling within a given category (“a wide range of flat-screen TVs”), as well as the distance or area reachable by, or scope of action of, a device, etc. (range of a gun, radio station, etc.).

“Range” meaning “stove” is actually one of the older senses of the word, first appearing in the early 15th century. This sense employs the word in its original meaning of “row or series of things,” and in a “range” stove the “things” are multiple burners and ovens. Early cooking stoves were essentially racks mounted in large open fireplaces, but in the 14th century enclosed ovens, with openings on top for heating sauces, etc., were developed in France and the modern “range” was born. Early ranges were so-called because they usually had more than one oven and usually at least two cooking spots on top, furnishing a “range” of places to cook. Today’s modern “ranges” usually have at least four burners and frequently two ovens, furnishing the modern home chef with an awesome culinary power only dreamed of by the cooks of 14th century France. Of course, they might be less impressed by the fact that, according to surveys,¬† most of those ovens are only used to heat up frozen pizza.