Several times in this column I’ve talked about the vagaries of Internet searches. One close encounter occurred when I went to books.google.com, typed in advectitious, and was asked whether I really meant adventitious. I’ve got nothing against adventitious—some of my most treasured finds on the Internet and elsewhere are adventicios/adventitious—but I really did mean advectitious, a word I’d just come across for the first time.
The root is vect-, from the past participle of the Latin verb vehere that meant ‘to carry, to bring.’ Related words are vector, literally ‘a carrier’; and convección/convection, which is ‘a process of transfer or transmission, as of heat or electricity, by means of currents in liquids or gases,’ e.g. in a convection oven.
The prefix in advectitious is the ad that meant ‘to,’ just like its Spanish descendant a. With reference to a location or system or style under discussion, something advectitious has been ‘carried to’ or ‘brought to’ it from a place where it is normally found; the advectitious thing is usually considered inappropriate in the new location. for example, writing in 1904, American architect Joy Wheeler Dow said in her book American Renaissance:
In my own very limited scope of usefulness, I am quite willing to confess that I have never bothered about style, and do not consider that I have any worth mentioning; although, I suppose, an occasional architect is annoyed past endurance by somebody who comes with an illustration of a particular piece of my work which has appeared in the magazines, requesting that my style be copied. Of course, it is not my style that is desired, but the expression of Anglo-Saxon home feeling as opposed to whatever is advectitious—out of place there—however correct academically, and according to the rules of harmony, good form or anything else you choose to call it.
Spanish speakers seem to have avoided importing *advecticioso into their language, where I think you’ll agree the word would be advectitious. Although advectitious has existed in English, it certainly isn’t common now. It’s one of those words that turn up in large dictionaries but rarely make their way outside them, like the rhyming deglutitious, natalicious, satellitious, and even—tra la!—tralatitious.
While Spanish lacks the adjective *advecticioso, it does have the noun advección, which means ‘the action or effect of carrying or dragging something.’ In particular, as science uses the word, advección/advection is ‘the [usually horizontal] movement of a mass of fluid.’ Local weather, for example, changes after the advection of warm or cold air into the region. Corresponding to that noun is advectivo/advective, which we can’t help noticing is an adjetivo/adjective.
© 2011 Steven Schwartzman