14 July 2015

A history of the word 'surveillance'

Some quotes from a piece on BBC Magazine Monitor / The Vocabularist / Words unpicked entitled The very French history of the word 'surveillance':
France's first Comite de Surveillance was set up in 1792, at first to keep watch over suspicious strangers, then to recommend suspects for arrest. Local surveillance committees were started all over the country.
The French flavour of surveillance has been lost - although for some the practice of the authorities in scooping up the messages of "whole populations" means it still sounds sinister to some.
But the veillance (vigilantia) part of it is related to a wide range of very respectable words meaning unsleeping, attentive, active or lively.

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