Language is a funny thing. I received a call from another attorney regarding my recent post on si oontingat, letting me know that the correct Latin phrase is si contingat. I immediately had flashbacks to high school Latin class and declensions and was embarrassed that I did not notice that oontingat did not have any of the classic signs of a word with recognizable prefixes. So, naturally, I spent some time looking into the matter.
The Latin verb contingo means to happen, to befall, to come to pass, to be granted to one (i.e. to convey). It can also mean to smite or to affect emotionally (among other things – the dictionary I consulted has 11 different meanings). The present third-person singular declension of contingo iscontingat. So, where the heck did oontingat come from?
I double-checked my original law dictionary source: yep, oontingat. I did the responsible thing and ran a Google search. Contingat did not yield much of anything. But oontingat brought up both dictionary definitions and pictures of old deeds with the word.
My highly uneducated guess is that somewhere along the way, someone who paid even less attention in Latin class than I did, misspelled contingat on a deed as oontingat (or worse yet, smudged the ink!), and somehow that spelling stuck. I’m not a linguist, just a word geek, so this is entirely speculation on my part.
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