The Latin word inventio – itself from the constituents in and venire, compounding to the sense of “to come upon” or discover – lies at the root of both the English words invention and inventory.
Whilst the word inventory is an offshoot of the more natural concept of invention (whose etymology is plain), the intertwining of the two words is interesting when thinking about novel ideas. The sense of invention, or to come up with something new, might be intimately linked to a conceptual, memory-based inventory of ideas gone by. The notion of invention might reciprocally invoke synthesis of the old. The word inventory itself refers to the sense of listing or cataloguing the things that are found, with its ‘-ory’ suffix orthography being a product of the influence of Medieval Latin and words ending in ‘-orium’; it truly belongs in the set of words ending ‘-ary’ as it does in French.
This post is the first of several I hope to write which I will file under miscellanea, but perhaps also other tags / categories. They are mainly for myself (as most of my posts are) and will be transplanted, synthesised from or merely inspired by books, articles, lectures, papers or conversations that I have been lucky to read, listen to or participate in. The style and likely quality will vary (I hope this will be an interesting exercise) and citations will be provided where possible.
This first post is taken directly from Joshua Foer’s wonderfully smooth and readable book Moonwalking with Einstein. He discusses all facets of memory. This thought is taken from the bottom of p. 203.
Key citation: Foer, Joshua (2011), Moonwalking with Einstein. Allen Lane.