Monday, February 06, 2012

Word of the day: manumit

The word of the day is manumit:

< classical Latin manūmittere < manū , ablative singular of manus the power of a father or master (lit. ‘hand’: compare manus n.1 2) + mittere to release, send (see mission n.); manū ēmittere is recorded from earlier texts. Compare Law French manumettre to set free (1338 in Middle French), Middle French manumitter (1354), manumiter (15th cent.); also Italian manomettere (end of 13th cent.), Spanish manumitir (early 18th cent. or earlier).
Now chiefly hist.
To release (a person) from slavery, bondage, or servitude; to set free. Also intr.: to obtain one's release from slavery, etc. (OED)

"The Romans, he writes, had no concept of progress: 'The implication is that the order of the universe is static, that social perspectives do not change; they must be the way they are.  The 'is' and 'ought to be' of the world are the same.'  Thus, a slave might dream of manumission, but hardly of abolition."

 - Adam Kirsch, "The empire strikes back: Rome and us", 9 January 2012 The New Yorker, quoting Robert Knapp's Invisible Romans

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