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Expiration Date

Sandra asked about the label expiration date, found on many products. It is, as we all know, the date beyond which the manufacturer will not guarantee safety or quality. If you really want to take a chance on that old carton of milk, it might be wise to hold your Breath before tasting it.

Breath is the key word here. Expire, expiration, and allied words come from the Latin ex-spirare, to breath out – in this case, to breathe one’s last. Centuries ago, the word didn’t have such a dire meaning; it simply described the normal breathing process. Later, it was applied to any emission or ejection; volcanoes would expire flames, and flowers would expire perfume. Now, patents and copyrights and temporary laws can also expire – run out of breath and existence.

The opposite is expressed by inspire, inspiration, and variations based on the Latin in-spirare, to breathe in. It runs from inhaling to infusing to arousing. The most famous breath is described in Genesis 2.7: “Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.”

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Expiration Date


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