Page:Language and the Study of Language.djvu/149
IN CONVENIENCE, NOT NECESSITY.
and to trace out its etymology is to follow up and exhibit its transfers of meaning and changes of form, as far back and as completely as the nature of the case allows. To recur to our last example—candidate is the modern abbreviated form of candidatus, participle of the (implied) Latin derivative verb candidare, 'to whiten,' from candidus, 'white;' and the historical circumstance which suggested its selection and application to its purpose has been pointed out. Candidus is itself a derivative adjective, coming from the verb candeo, which means 'to shimmer, to shine;' it designates properly a glittering or sheeny white. We have this also in our language, little altered in form, as the word candid; but, though it may be found here and there in old authors employed in its sensible, physical signification of 'white,' it has in our ordinary use been transferred, by a figure of which every one appreciates the naturalness, to indicate a mental quality, freedom from bias or prejudice, from dissimulation, from deceit—those dark shades and spots on a character. Few of us ever think of a connection of idea between candid and candidate; and the less, as the position indicated by the latter word is by no means favourable to the development of the virtue expressed by the former. The verb candeo we are able to trace one or two steps farther back, through caneo and canus, to a root can, which signifies 'shining;' this, to our analysis, is an ultimate fact, beyond which we cannot at present penetrate.
But, while words thus have their historical grounds, while the etymologist can explain how they came to receive the value which we attribute to them, we must beware of ascribing too cogent or too permanent a force to the etymological reason. It was not a necessary reason; there was no element of compulsion in it. The Roman seeker for office might as well have gotten some such name as proponent, 'proposer,' or petent, 'seeker,' as the one by which he actually came to be called; either of these, it may be claimed, is more truly significant than candidate, which expresses only a fortuitous circumstance of external garb, and was applicable to any one who should choose to wear a white dress. All that can be said in reply is that the Romans were in fact