breaking the spell of procrastination

I’ve lateley spent some time thinking about procrastination. And not just about procrastination, but about procrastination. The word, that is. Perhaps because I’ve been spending a lot of time procrastinating. Inspired by Sage‘s Word Wise Wednesday tradition, I thought I’d share a bit that I’ve learned about the etymology of procrastination. Remarkably, the meaning of the word has not drifted far, at least according to the Online Etymology Dictionary:

procrastination
1548, from L. procrastinationem “a putting off,” noun of action from procrastinare “put off till tomorrow,” from pro- “forward” + crastinus “belonging to tomorrow,” from cras “tomorrow,” of unknown origin. Procrastinate is recorded from 1588.

It’s terribly unmysterious.

I was quite interested to note, however, the description of the word as a “noun of action.” In my experience, it often seems to be more of a noun of inaction. And what’s more, observe that one can spell the word inaction from a selection of the letters of the word procrastination. Coincidence? I think not.

Because let’s face it, without inaction, procrastination just wouldn’t be the same.¹

You may also be interested to learn that, in addition to inaction, the following words (and many, many more) can be made by using letters of procrastination:

pasta, carrot, onion, poi, toast, pots, coin, top
trap, scrap, ration, nation, station, Patton, stint, coot
tint, print, caption, croon, tiara, stair, star, icon, coop
scoop, poo, poots, crap, strip, carrion

and, you may be happy to learn

stop

And do you want to know what got me a-ponderin’ about procrastination, and the words one can spell from its letters? I realized that one can spell…pants.

Pants!

And of course, realizing that made me want to come up with a full-blown anagram for procrastination with pants. It’s been tricky, but here are my candidates.

Croatian roi pants²

coir pants ration³

I think my best attempt is this one:

Rio pants action: R

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¹ Actually, without inaction, procrastination would end up something like prorast. And where would that get us?

² Using the a French word roi, meaning “king.” Or alternately “Croation iro pants,” using a Japanse word, iro, meaning “color.”

³ Where coir is a fiber that might be a bit rough for pants.

the weekly pants

After my most recent post of seriousness, and being too tired/sleep-deprived just now to put together coherent thoughts, I feel compelled to return to our regularly scheduled silliness. And what could be sillier than pants?

I also feel that while this blog boasts more posts on pants that the average blog, I can do better. I’m sure I can bring you more pants. With that goal in mind, I’ll try to post on a pants topic once a week. I won’t commit to a day. I’ll just surprise you with pants some day each week, out of the blue. Pants! And besides, every day of the week should be pants day.

To get the pants rolling (can pants roll?), I’ll share a tidbit from a lovely book called Unfortunate English: The Gloomy Truth Behind the Words You Use, by Bill Brohaugh. This book, given to me by the friend who was recently brave enough to be one of our house guests, contains some very entertaining etymological goods. According to Unfortunate English, pants are “a garment that has its origins in buffoonery and farce:”

The word traces back to commedia dell’ arte, an old Italian theatre form (beginning in the 1500s) combining improvisation and standard bits actors could weave in at appropriate moments. One of the stock characters in this theatre form was Pantalone, a mean, miserly merchant and a bit of a dirty old man.[…]

The Pantalone character wore tight-fitting trousers or leggings. Trousers like those worn by Pantalone were called pantaloons in the 1600s, and by the 1700s the word was applied to trousers (as opposed to knee breeches) in general. By the mid-1830s, the word had been shortened to pants… (p. 75)

Another point made by the author is that because of the associations with the dirty old man Pantalone character, a comic figure, the term pantaloons has roots in “making light of old folk:”

…by the 1600s the word pantaloon meant “old codger.” (p. 76)

It’s interesting to see how pantaloon’s descendent pants has matured, having now lost this meaning of mockery of the matured.