To Have and to Hold

At the cinema last night, the standard message about the film’s age rating came up, stating that the film was rated suitable for exhibition etc. Fine. At that point though, the couple behind me began to discuss the word exhibition, and its pronunciation.

It’s something I’d never really considered before, as it’s pretty straightforward, basically sounding like it looks. But I listened, and they discussed whether it might be pronounced like exposition or expression, so I guess it’s a tricky one for some.

Anyway, I began to break the word down in my head, as I waited the few seconds for the film to start. There’s nothing mysterious about ex-, with the general meaning of out/outer making sense in the word’s sense of display. -hibit: I wondered if that could be related to words like habit or habitat. But then, are habit and habitat related? Their meanings are quite different. Might the superficial resemblance between all these words just be a coincidence?

I investigated (today, I didn’t get a chance to think much further before the film started). As it turns out, there is a link between these words (and others): the Latin verb habere (to hold). To exhibit something then, simply means to hold it out, for display. To inhabit a place (and habitat literally means to inhabit in Latin) simply expands the idea of having or holding something into the idea of living somewhere. Habit comes from the Latin habitus (condition, demeanour, appearance, or dress), which could refer to both inner and outer states or appearance (think how it’s still used to refer to a monk’s regular clothing). And again, there’s the general concept of having or holding something: your habits are aspects of your personality that you possess.

Thinking again about the word exhibition, it occurred to me that the opposite of the word would appear, logically, to be inhibition. But it’s not really, is it?, something I think I’ll come back to tomorrow.

2 thoughts on “To Have and to Hold

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