30-Second Word Whoop: “Settlement”

Jamestownsettlement

The settlement at Jamestown, circa 1607-ish.

Over a span of four months, we moved twice. Went to settlement on the sale of our two-decade-long suburban settlement in July, then settled on a subpar rental, before settling for a higher purchase price than we’d have liked for a new house. Two months later, we’re still not quite settled.

Moving can be so unsettling.

You can find “settlement” in the legal sense but OUT of the courtroom, or in the lab in a petri dish. Settlement of sediment is always occurring behind the walls or in the pipes of your house. Although you settle down (get fixed up) with a partner, your goal is likely a step up in living standards. A center providing community services for the disadvantaged often is called a “settlement house.” Redundant?

A general view of the Israeli settlement of Beitar Illit (foreground), on the outskirts of Jerusalem, on March 8, 2010. Photo by   Ahmad Gharabli, AFP

A view of the Israeli settlement of Beitar Illit (foreground), on the outskirts of Jerusalem, on March 8, 2010. Photo by Ahmad Gharabli, AFP

Putting down roots, finding equilibrium and compromising all play into “settlement,” a relatively modern and decidedly American term from the 1620s that refers to the “act of fixing or steadying.” Plymouth, anyone? From pilgrims and pioneers, fast-forward to the Israeli settlements on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem and Golan Heights, representing a rocky conflict in the cradle of civilization that some argue could lay the foundation for our species’ extinction. Gives new meaning to “occupied.” As well as “preoccupied,” hoo boy.

Piling on: the 1690s concept of a “tract of country newly developed” and the 1827 emergence of a “small village on the frontier.” The “settling of arrangements” (property transfer, divorce) stems from the 1670s, while paying your bills is a 1729 development.

One thing I can’t settle on — or settle for — is but one usage of “settlement.” So sue me.

Pennies on the Dollar

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About Terry Byrne

Writer-editor with deep reservations about holding her tongue. Fan of both nature and nurture. Lifelong fascination with gender studies, sexuality, music and brainpower.

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