Monday, 30 April 2012

etymology linking emergence and emergency

What's the connection between emergence and emergency? Today at ACMI - what a wonderful place - I saw this sign:
When I first noticed the sign, I thought it said emergency. And that, of course, got me wondering how these two words are related. After a search on the Net, I'm still not quite sure. At SciForums there was a discussion about the relationship of the two words, but it was fairly inconclusive, in my opionion. However, one person did say this:
I find Dictionary.com to be as good an etymological reference as anything else that's available for free, if only because it usually lists more than one. Unfortunately all the etymologies for "emergency" refer back to "emerge," which IMHO does not do justice to the word's modern usage. It has moved far away from the origin of the emergency, i.e., "something that comes out of something else," and is now all about the appropriate response, i.e., "We gotta do something pretty dadgum quick or we'll be real sorry." That said, "emerge" does not mean exclusively "to come out of (something else)." It means, more generally, to arise, to develop, to come into existence. The notion of requiring an immediate response is a more recent accretion to the definition of "emergency," which makes a rift between that word and the word it was built from. This is hardly unusual in our language or any other.
Another said of the word emergency that it's :
a well-known medical adage: Someone bleeding [unexpectedly] from an orifice (ears, eyes, nose, mouth, navel, urethral orifice, anus, etc) should seek medical attention immediately. For example, someone in a car accident says s/he is okay, but is bleeding from his/her ears. This person should seek medical attention immediately. The etymology of emergency is from something "emerging" -- the same idea as something "cropping up" -- it is something that appears unexpectedly. It's the unexpected. The word seems to have taken on a pejorative sense.
MedlinePlus, the Merriam Webster Medical Dictionary, defines the word emergent:
Function: adjective : calling for prompt or urgent action
The definition I find the most helpful comes from The Free Dictionary:
emergency - Comes from Latin emergere (e-, "from," and mergere, "to dip, plunge") and first meant "unforeseen occurrence."

2 comments:

Aidan O'Kelly said...

i was thinking about this word and found this page. a thought i had was that it combines the phrase 'emerging urgency'
which is kinda the definition of emergency. what do people think?

parlance said...

I think that's an interesting thought, maybe relating to people's habit of combining similar words.