Monday, March 29, 2010

Making the death pledge

Will I sign my soul over to the Devil? Not exactly. But I may soon be signing away my livelihood with a mortgage. Considering that the word comes from the root “mort” (meaning death), I decided that this deserved some extra attention.

As a noun, the word “mortgage” has been around since 1390. Coming from Old French, the word literally means “death pledge.” It was called such because the deal (or loan) “dies” when the debt is repaid or when payment fails. The word was first used as a verb in 1467.

Sir Edward Coke (1552-1634) theorized that the “death” part of the word referred to a certain level of doubtfulness regarding whether or not the debt would be repaid. Also, if the debt could not be paid, the property would be seized by the creditor (causing the land to be “dead” to the one owing money).

Of course, others would joke (with all due sarcasm) that a mortgage is a “death pledge” because you will pay it until you die, or you’ll never be able to pay off the debt. Likewise, if you die before repaying the debt – the bank will own your home. How morbid.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Any questions, comments or concerns? Share them here.