Today as I drove home from South Carolina, I realized I needed to know what “cursor” and “cursory” had to do with one another (and maybe “curse”?), and found myself delighted not to have a viable-feeling hypothesis!
And as it turns out, even thinking of “curse” red-herringed any budding imaginary etymological connections, because “cursory” and “cursor” both link back to “course,” which of course has to do originally with running (Latin “currere,” conjugated to a zillion forms including things like “cursus“*), and “curse” only MIGHT have something to do with all that (according to 1934, and also according to now).
So, in all their glory:
(They didn’t know about computers, but we do.)
Great, right?! Yeah! It’s just running. The cursor runs around the page, a cursory glance passes hurriedly over whatever.
But the part I love is this:
“Cursive” is so named because it runs continuously! Gorgeous. And even better: 1934 Webster’s Int’l translated Latin “cursare” as “to run hither and thither,” which means that either “hither and thither” enjoyed frequent enough rhymingly adverbial use to make its inclusion here unremarkable, or, that they deliberately used a funnier translation than was necessary. Either way: hooray! And, since the Court of Chancery hasn’t needed the word since 1835, let’s reinstate “cursitor,” maybe for people who drive to and from South Carolina.
* look here and think about words like “corridor” and “current,” and rejoice!