I was thinking about how most of us rarely use actual cameras anymore. Our kids and grand kids will naturally think of cameras as a function of their cell phones. But the history of the word “camera” hearkens back to an earlier version of the device.
The Latin word “camera” means “chamber” (another derivative) or “room.” An early camera was a truncated form of “camera obscura,” or “dark room.” If you owned or have seen an old Brownie camera, you have seen that little dark chamber, holding the light-sensitive film safely inside the darkness.
Other English words derive from this root as well. Our legislature is called “bicameral,” because it has two houses, or rooms, the Senate and the House of Representatives. (Not because elected officials love to appear before the cameras.) A chamberlain, a royal officer who attends a king or high-ranking noble, is in literal terms a person who manages chambers, or rooms. A “camcorder” combines “camera” with “recorder.”
And how does “comrade” relate? Well, you’re chummy enough with a comrade that you’d be willing to share a room with him or her.
Our comrades are a far cry from the root word “camera.” And the skinny hand-held devices that can “hold” thousands of photos are a far cry from the old Brownie “chamber,” a handsome box that protected our pictures until we could drop off the film at the drug store.
P.S. Some of you will recognize this post as a continuation of Word of the Day on the Facebook “Latin at CSU” page. Latin, alas, is no more at CSU, so a weekly etymology will be appearing here on Wednesdays. Suggestions are welcome!