just deserts

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just deserts

Post by Archived Topic » Fri Mar 05, 2004 11:20 pm

Does anybody know where the phrase came from? I believe it may based on "deserve", but I am not sure. Thanks!
Steve Leach, Toronto, Canada
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just deserts

Post by Archived Reply » Fri Mar 05, 2004 11:34 pm

Just Deserts
A deserved punishment or reward, as in He got his just deserts when Mary jilted him. This idiom employs desert in the sense of “what one deserves,” a usage dating from the 1300s but obsolete except in this expression.--Taken from GuruNet.

Reply from Charles Becker (Murray KY - U.S.A.)
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just deserts

Post by Archived Reply » Fri Mar 05, 2004 11:49 pm

Trust Charles to know his deserts/desserts! I found this smidgen more at The Maven's Archive:

The word you ask about is properly spelled deserts; it is unrelated to dessert though it is occasionally spelled that way, a spelling one impatient language writer attributes to "sloppiness or pure ignorance." It is also unrelated to the other desert, so let's get all of them out of the way.

The earliest of these similar-looking words is desert, pronounced "DEZZ-urt," meaning 'an arid, sandy region capable of supporting only a few, usually specialized, life forms'. This word is first recorded in the early thirteenth century, and is ultimately derived from Latin elements meaning 'abandoned; forsaken'. The verb meaning 'to abandon' also stems from this root.

The word dessert, pronounced "di-ZERT," and meaning 'a usually sweet food served as the final course of a meal', is first recorded in 1600. It derives from a French word meaning 'to clear the table'. This etymology is still reflected in current table service, where it is customary to remove everything from the table that's not being used (salt/pepper shakers, breadbaskets, sometimes even flowers) before serving dessert.

The final word for consideration is your desert, also pronounced "di-ZERT," and in modern use found almost exclusively in the compound just deserts. The word means 'reward or punishment that is deserved'. The two other senses included in most standard dictionaries are 'the fact of deserving well; merit; worth' ("If you retain desert of holiness"--Marlowe, Tamburlane); and 'the state or fact of deserving reward or punishment' ("Some will always mistake the degree of their own desert"--Samuel Johnson, Rambler No. 193). This desert is based on a French verb meaning 'to deserve', and is first found in the thirteenth century.
Reply from Leif Thorvaldson (Eatonville - U.S.A.)
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