I have been traveling so much recently (Florida, Vienna, now California) that I have not had time to post! But here is a curiosity for today.
Samuel Johnson once said that a book you haven't yet read is for you the same as if it has been recently published. (The Odyssey fresh every generation.) Can we say similarly that a word that you didn't know is as if it had recently been coined?
I encountered a word today which I know I had never seen before, and yet which for all I know may not be uncommon. It's not surprising that there should be words like that, but I don't know if this is such a word. So I ask you, have you seen this word before in English?
The word is: hypothecate.
It's used in two senses in English (see the OED entry below). Its more common sense is 'to support a loan with a pledge of property', e.g. you borrow money, and you pledge collateral for the loan; the creditor has the right to take possession of the property and liquidate it if you default on the loan, but you remain the owner of the property in the meantime. The loan is secured not by you, but by the property: that is, if the liquidation of the property ends up not being sufficient to repay the principal of the loan, you are off the hook for the rest (A pawnshop works in that way: the pawnbroker lends money for a fraction of the value of the pawned property and cannot take possession of it until some period for repayment has elapsed.)
In the less common sense, to hypothecate is to hypothesize (see Ezra Pound's pedantry, below).
Wikipedia says that maybe the noun, 'hypothecation', is used now in a third sense, as an abbreviation of 'hypothetical dedication' (yikes!), as in the earmarking of tax receipts for some particular purpose, to wit: "The new gasoline tax is a hypothecation for the funding of public transportation."
So, be honest with me: Did you know this as an English word already? (Yes, I am aware that anyone who knows the word will think it obvious that everyone does, and so a confession of ignorance is hazardous. But by the same token a confession of ignorance may be refreshing.)
(I suspect it's not common in English, even as a legal term of art, because the US 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in 1993 decided a case which hinged on the meaning of the word as used in a corporate charter.)
1. trans. To give or pledge as security; to pledge, pawn, mortgage.
1681STAIR Instit. IV. xxv. §5 (1693) 619 The Fruits of the Ground..which by the Law were Hypothecat for the Rents of the said year. 1754ERSKINE Princ. Sc. Law (1809) 197 The whole cattle on the ground..are hypothecated for a year's rent, one after another successively. 1755N. MAGENS Insurances II. 55 We oblige ourselves and hypothecate, for the Security and Payment of the Sum of this Writing, the said Ship..and we oblige ourselves not to dispose thereof in any manner, until the said Sum be entirely paid. And whatever is done to the contrary, let it be null, as a Thing done against an express Prohibition and Hypothecation. 1756ROLT Dict. Trade, Hypotheca, among the moderns to hypothecate a ship, is to pawn or pledge the same for necessaries; and into whose hands soever the ship comes, it is liable. 1797BURKE Regic. Peace III. Wks. VIII. 319 Whether they to whom this new pledge is hypothecated, have redeemed their own. 1827SCOTT Napoleon (1834) I. vi. 206 The assembly adopted a system of paper money, called assignats, which were secured or hypothecated upon the church lands. 1855MACAULAY Hist. Eng. xii. III. 148 He had no power to hypothecate any part of the public revenue.
2. trans. =
HYPOTHESIZEv. 2. 1906Nature 7 June 136/1 Mr. Cowell hypothecated a resisting medium through which the earth travels. 1912R. FRY in Gt. State ix. 271 Mr. Wells's Modern Utopia..hypothecates a vast superstructure of private trading. 1915E. B. HOLT Freudian Wish i. 4 One will best..not hypothecate to this end any such thing as ‘psychic energy’. 1920E. POUND Let. 12 Sept. (1971) 161 You are talking through your hat when you suggest that I..was ever ass enough to have picked ‘La Figlia’ for the fantastic occasion you hypothecate. 1952Pediatrics IX. 724 One had to hypothecate the existence of a mutation of organisms. 1779SIR W. JONES Comm. Isæus Wks. 1799 IV. 205 The property..was distinguished like all other hypothecated estates, by small columns, and inscriptions..containing a specification of the sum for which they were pledged. 1828WEBSTER cites Judge Johnson for Hypothecator. 1865Day of Rest Oct. 574 The iron box in the back sitting room, containing the hypothecated jewels, had been rifled.