Dan Brown, of "The Da Vinci Code" fame, offers up this etymology in the "Digital Fortress":
"During the Renaissance, Spanish sculptors who made mistakes while carving expensive marble often patched their flaws with cera - wax. A statue that had no flaws and required no patching wax was hailed as a "sculpture sin cera" or a "sculpture without wax". The phrase eventually came to mean anything honest or true. The English word "sincere" evolved from Spanish sin cera".
Sounds con cera to me ... I imagine nowadays they patch nicked scupture (say the Pieta) with space-age Spackle.
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Dan Brown, of "The Da Vinci Code" fame, offers up this etymology in the "Digital Fortress": "During the Renaissance, Spanish ... cera". Sounds con cera to me ... I imagine nowadays they patch nicked scupture (say the Pieta) with space-age Spackle.

I wonder if Brown picked this up elsewhere or just made it up.

"borrowed from Middle French sincere, and probably directly from Latin sincerus sound, whole, pure, genuine, perhaps originally 'of one growth,' not hybrid, unmixed ... from sen- sin- one + the root of crescere to grow." AHD4 says much the same but more tersely.

Still, why be surprised? Brown writes fiction for a living.

Bob Lieblich
Precisian (this once)
Dan Brown, of "The Da Vinci Code" fame, offers up ... true. The English word "sincere" evolved from Spanish sin cera".

"borrowed from Middle French sincere, and probably directly from Latin sincerus sound, whole, pure, genuine, perhaps originally 'of one growth,' not hybrid, unmixed ... from sen- sin- one + the root of crescere to grow." AHD4 says much the same but more tersely.

Exactly. The has:
(ad. L. sincr-us clean, pure, sound, etc. Cf. F. sincère (1549), Sp., Pg., and It. sincero.
The first syllable may be the same as sim-, in simplex: see SIMPLE a. There is no probability in the old explanation from sine cr ‘without wax’.)

Regards, Frank Young
(Email Removed) 703-527-7684 Post Office Box 2793, Kensington, Maryland 20891 "Videmus nunc per speculum in aenigmate... Nunc cognosco ex parte"
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Exactly. The has: (ad. L. sincr-us clean, pure, sound, etc. Cf. F. sincre (1549), Sp., Pg., and It. sincero. ... as sim-, in simplex: see SIMPLE a. There is no probability in the old explanation from sine cr without wax.)

If you're curious about the book, it's not a bad waiting-in-line thriller, but he get all his computer bits wrong. The NSA protects its data from Internet hackers by five tiers of defense:
"A primary level Bastion Host, two sets of packet filters for FTP and X-eleven, a tunnel block, and finally a PEM-based authorization window right off the Truffle project."
At the end of the book, if the hackers break in, every byte of NSA data become public domain ...
Dan Brown, of "The Da Vinci Code" fame, offers up ... they patch nicked scupture (say the Pieta) with space-age Spackle.

"borrowed from Middle French sincere, and probably directly from Latin sincerus sound, whole, pure, genuine, perhaps originally 'of one growth,' not hybrid, unmixed ... from sen- sin- one + the root of crescere to grow." AHD4 says much the same but more tersely.

Not made up by Brown - as a schoolboy I was told the same "wax" version, and to my shame passed it on to pupils of my own before I overcame natural idleness and looked it up. Still, I wish it were true.

Alan Jones
Dan Brown, of "The Da Vinci Code" fame, offers up this etymology in the "Digital Fortress": "During the Renaissance, Spanish ... to mean anything honest or true. The English word "sincere" evolved from Spanish sin cera". Sounds con cera to me

From the OED (the 'U' in 'sincUr-us' and in 'sine cUrQ' is an e-macron, #emac#, the 'Q' is an a-macron, #amac#, so you can read these as 'sincerus' and 'sine cera'):
(ad. L. sincUr-us clean, pure, sound, etc. Cf. F. sincère (1549), Sp., Pg., and It. sincero.
The first syllable may be the same as sim-, in simplex: see simple a. There is no probability in the old explanation from sine cUrQ ‘without wax’.)

And MWCD11 agrees:
Etymology:Middle French, from Latin sincerus whole, pure, genuine, probably from sem- one + -cerus (akin to Latin crescere to grow) — more at SAME, CRESCENT

Martin Ambuhl
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Exactly. The has: (ad. L. sincr-us clean, pure, sound, ... probability in the old explanation from sine cr without wax.)

If you're curious about the book, it's not a bad waiting-in-line thriller, but he get all his computer bits wrong. (snip)[/nq]Does he ever. I don't have the background to know whether his description of how the NSA protects its data is remotely close to reality, but early on he has a scene in which he mentions the programming languages C and Pascal that as far as I can tell is nonsense. He must have some mental model of what a programming language is, but I'm pretty sure it's far removed from the one held by people who actually know something about programming.

I found myself wondering why he didn't find someone who actually does understand this stuff to read over the manuscript and point out howling blunders. I know it's fiction, and in fiction one is allowed to make stuff up, but really. Well, I guess it's a useful reminder to take everything one reads in mass-market fiction with a big block of salt.
About the actual topic here, I did a little Googling because one of the characters is mystified by the "without wax" phrase, and I thought probably a few minutes with Google would have cleared it up for the character, and .. Well. I discovered that something I had believed for years was an urban legend. Further, apparently the version of the legend I had heard is not the common one (the one about using wax to patch statues or whatever). What I had been told, by someone who had just taken an introductory Latin class IIRC, was that the use of "without wax" to mean "sincere" came from the practice of sending out messages sealed with a blob of wax and a seal unless one really trusted the messenger, in which the message could be sent out without the blob of wax.

(Now that I write it up, it doesn't make a lot of sense, does it? Curious how something can be in the back of one's head for eons and never get a critical look!)
Dan Brown, of "The Da Vinci Code" fame, offers up this etymology in the "Digital Fortress": "During the Renaissance, Spanish ... wax". The phrase eventually came to mean anything honest or true. The English word "sincere" evolved from Spanish sin cera".

Our German teacher told us England got its name because it's "eng".

Adrian
Dan Brown, of "The Da Vinci Code" fame, offers up this etymology in the "Digital Fortress": "During the Renaissance, Spanish ... cera". Sounds con cera to me ... I imagine nowadays they patch nicked scupture (say the Pieta) with space-age Spackle.

The Century Dictionary gives the "without wax" etymology with the following explanation "explained as referring originally to clean vessels free from the wax sometimes used in sealing wine-jars, etc. This etymology is untenable." It gives a couple of other possibilities, one of which also appears in MWCD11: "Middle French, from Latin sincerus whole, pure, genuine, probably from sem- one + -cerus (akin to Latin crescere to grow) more at SAME, CRESCENT."

Raymond S. Wise
Minneapolis, Minnesota USA
E-mail: mplsray @ yahoo . com
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