13 Aug 2012


Reading something today it struck me that we talk about "goods and services". "Goods" would seem to be a utilitarian concept - material commodities are what we accumulate in order to experience happiness (in this theory) and so a commodity is "good".

However the usage dates back to the 13th century, and the word has the same sense in Old English where it means the same. The singular adjectival form good in Old English meant: 'virtuous; desirable; valid; considerable'.  The Proto-Indo-European (PIE) root is ghedh 'to unite, join, fit'. So good is cognate with gather and  together. In Old English we also find gæd 'fellowship' and other words relating to togetherness with people. Similar sounding words with the same range of meaning occur throughout the Germanic languages, including the Scandinavian branch; and cognate words are found in Slavic and Indic with slight different emphasis in meaning. (Indo European Lexicon).

I presume that the application to commodities derives from agriculture - one's wealth was gathered in autumn with the harvest. Though perhaps it refers to all one's possessions gathered together in a homestead. In any case the application to commodities predates Utilitarianism by a millennia or more.

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Keep is seemly & on-topic. Thanks.