Tonight I and some folks were talking about various virtues and various kinds of offices in the SCA. Near the end, we were talking about franchise and trying to come to some kind of definition of it, particularly a medieval one (not the 'fast food franchise' kind). AElflaed suggested that it might be one of those words that fell out of favor, and during that time, the definition was lost, but its opposite (disenfranchise) remains.
ashti25 said that this made her want to go home and look up etymologies - and it did for me as well. So, here's some scribbling notes:
Cassell's latin/english dictionary gives as a translation for franchise: "civitas, ius (iuris, n)." Oddly, that doesn't appear in the latin half of the dictionary! But there is civitas, -atis, f. which is "abstr. citizenship; concr. a union of citizens, state, commonwealth; the inhabitants of a city, townsfolk; (rarely) a city, town".
Why would I want to try to translate into latin? Because I know of a period latin-french dictionary, but it's only latin to french. It's the Dictionarium latinogallicum by Robert Estienne, dated to1552. Only headword access (that is, the latin headwords) is available without being a student, though I did find a way to go page by page.
After a few moments of headscratching and "why isn't my query working", I discover that it's got a v<->u switch, so I need to look for ciuitas instead of civitas. It's difficult to quite tell which one I want, so I'll quote:
Yep, most of these seem to indicate that it refers to people. Probably where "civilians" comes from. The other one that seems more related is civilitas:
Which is in english, from the french part, a rough translation without using the dictionary:
But I don't really have anything to tie that to franchise, really, other than that it seems like it -should- be related.
My modern french/english dictionary (Larousse, if you care) translates franchise as "s. franchise; immunite, f.; droit constitutionnel, m." That seems to approximate as "franchise; immunity, consitutional right". I suspect that this might be a bit changed over time and revolutions?
Ok, modern french/english dictionary #2 (The new Cassell's French Dictionary) gives much the same, "Franchise, f., droit de vote, m., immunite, f., privilege, m." So, again, "franchise, right to vote, immunity, privilege". From the french, franchise is given a broader definition:
This looks more promising, but really, this is still off in modern-french land.
Because I can, I checked the OED as well. I'm not going to type it all in - it's 2.5 columns of dense tiny print. Suffice it to say that the main definition has 8 parts, divided into two sections. Section I is "Freedom, immunity, privilege", and it contains 6 of the parts, mostly freedom from various things, but also "a privilege or exceptional right granted by the sovereign power to any person or body of persons (examples start at 1386)" and "the freedom of or full membership of a body corporate or politic: citizenship (examples start at 1579)" (citizenship again!) and "the district over which the privilege of a corporation or an individual extends: a territory, domain (examples start at 1486)".
Section II is "As an attribute of character or action", and its parts are:
I must say that the Chaucer one is unparseable to me. Franchise, in women, narrow hem advise? Other than that, it seems to be no more than a synonym for several of the other virtues discussed.
The verb definition for franchise seems to be 100% about making or setting free, "to invest with a franchise or privilege", and the definition for franchised is much the same, as is franchisement.
Anybody else got anything to contribute, especially etymologically speaking?
edit: AElflaed's got a page of her own about this subject, which might be interesting to folks: /duckford/virtue/fr
Which brings us back to the idea that franchise, as a virtue, seems to be tied to the other meanings of being privileged or having special rights.
I also just went back and checked, and the OED gives as the etymology for franchise the noun as "[OF franchise freedom, frankness, f. franc free, FRANK a (for the history of the pronounciation see enfranchise)]". For the verb form, it says "[a. OF franchiss-, lengthened stem of franchir, f. franc free : see FRANK a]".
Interestingly, one of the definitions of frank has a subsection "liberal, bounteous, generous, lavish, esp. in dealing with money". Hey, check out this example for this section!
So, the word franchise originated in France, not England, almost certainly coming over with the Normans in 1066 (or soon after, if they weren't coming off the boats shouting "franchise! franchise! franchise!") ... who, as I recall, made French their court language (examples of which might not be in the Oxford English Dictionary). It probably took some time to be imported into English, which is part of why the examples in the OED are a bit later (the very earliest I saw was 1290).
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