As I get older and my brain ambles in funny ways, I’ve become intrigued by the connections between different meanings of the same word.
Take “court”, for instance. It can mean a courtyard, a place to play tennis, or more ominously, the judiciary.
It can also mean a sovereign’s retinue or governing council, as in the court of Henry VIII, with all its intrigue, malevolent agendas, and state-sanctioned murder.
The word “court” derives from Old French, meaning all of these things: an enclosed space, a court of justice, a royal entourage.
Even now, judicial courts retain the activities, trappings and manners of medieval or Renaissance kings and queens: counselors negotiating deals, flunkies who got their jobs through political connections, and the practice of “all rise”, so discordant with a society that considers itself egalitarian, especially in matters of justice.
I’m not going anywhere in particular with this, just noting the interesting similarities in venues and customs associated with the different meanings of a common word, one which has a long history of provoking fear and dread, and for excellent reasons.
When justice and good triumph in court, it’s worth noting, as much with amazement as relief, because it’s so one-sided: a single citizen, or small group of citizens, versus thousands of years of control by the state just for control’s sake, with all the money, power and physical resources the state has at its beck and call.
So, to all who triumphed in court this week: congratulations, and job well done! You’ve beat city hall, the Tower, the rack. Good for you.