We live in interesting times in which a corporation is considered to be a person. Since corporations do not die nor can they be executed or imprisoned, corporations can be considered immortal. Politicians and Supreme Court judges seem to worship these immortals, asking them to bestow financial favors upon them. As immortals, corporations accrue a greater and greater share of the nation’s wealth which is then passed on to be enjoyed by real people who feel that they are entitled to this wealth by accident of birth. Corporations as persons, of course, have religious beliefs which are felt to be superior. As immortal persons, corporations, like the European medieval lords, feel they have the right to control government and to dictate the intimate details of other peoples’ (i.e. non-corporate) lives. Let’s look at some of the words which might be related to the new feudal age in which we live.
The roots of the English word “person” stretch back into the ancient Greek and Roman theater in which “persona” referred to the mask or false face which was worn by actors to portray their roles in the plays. The Latin “persona” evolved into the Old French “persone” which was then adopted by English as “person” in the early thirteenth century. By the mid-fifteenth century, “person” also referred to corporate entities.
The word “corporation” appears in English in the mid-fifteenth century referring to “persons united in a body for some purpose.” The word is from the Late Latin noun “corporationem” which is based on the Latin verb “corporare” meaning to embody. It became a legal term in English beginning in the 1610s.
About 1400, the word “royalty” emerged in English referring to the “office or position of a sovereign.” English borrowed the term from the Old French “roíalte” which had evolved from the Vulgar Latin “*regalitatem.” By the late fifteenth century “royalty” had taken on the sense of “prerogatives or rights granted by a sovereign to an individual or corporation.”
Minions, people who have unimportant jobs or who are servile underlings, were popularized with the movie Despicable Me. According to one etymology, “minion” entered English from Middle French “mignon” which meant “a favorite or darling” and when used as an adjective it meant “dainty, pleasing, favorite.” Going farther back in time, the Old French “mignot” meant “pretty, attractive, dainty, gracious, affectionate.” The original use of minion in English was in reference to those who served nobles or monarchs as their favorite servants. It is from this that minion took on the meaning of a fawning, servile attendant.
There is an alternative etymology, which attempts to tie “minion” to the Old Irish “min” meaning “tender, soft.”