Monday, May 18, 2015
Word of the Week - Fence
So, duh moment. Did you know that the noun fence--like, you know, the thing around your yard--is from defense? Yeah. Duh. I'd never paused to consider that, perhaps because the spelling has ended up different, but there you go! It has been a shortening of defense with the same meaning since the 14th century. Then sense of that enclosure followed in the 15th century.
It had a similar verb meaning at the same times too, with the "to sword-fight" way of defending oneself arising in the 1590s.
But the reason I looked it up was for the meaning that has a fence being someone who buys and sells stolen goods...and to fence being to sell those stolen goods. I expected it to be a pretty modern use, but no! As the verb, it's been around since 1610, and it was then applied to the person doing it right around 1700--all from the idea that it's accomplished under "the defense of secrecy."