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Distrain

Definition: To seize a person’s property as payment for a debit.

Pronunciation: dis-TRAYN

Origin:

The Latin prefix dis-, meaning “to hinder” or “to be apart”, is coupled with the Latin verb stringere– “to draw tight” –which was originally derived from the Indo-European stem streig-. The body of the word evolved in form and use from the Latin distrinct- into distringere and eventually the Medieval French destreign.

 

And, as modern English is essentially the bastard lovechild of German and French with Anglo-Saxon influence; thus, the final term distrain was born!

 

Why this word?

Okay, there’s no doubt about it– Almost anywhere you are, wherever there exist people on this earth, in the global climate as a whole: Times is tough, y’all. There are bills to be paid, mouths to be fed, credit scores and livelihoods and material necessities to be kept working and in acceptable condition, and– Agh.

Though, it’s almost an unspoken rite of passage for Modern Adulthood to, one day, not have enough money. One day, you’ll be standing at the cashier’s counter and suddenly discover that you’re short a small note or two. And usually when your final amount only comes out to something under $10. It embarrassing, but it happens to everyone at some point.

Sometimes, however, the situation is worse. Some people inherit bad credit or weren’t taught good financial skills and they try to buy things they need but cannot afford. Sometimes, they manage to slide through the system unnoticed for long enough to build up the money required to pay off their debts in full before the roving eye of Big Brother recognizes them as a name and a face instead of an anonymous string of numbers on a filehead.

Before I settled on writing as a permanent career path, I’d toyed with the idea of going to law school. I understand the delicate logic and bowing and posturing necessary for such a field; I wanted to be one of those righteous attorneys who defended those that in any other capacity wouldn’t have a voice. I learned of legal loopholes which allowed banks and businesses to distrain an individual’s personal possessions in order to cause enough stress so that the desired finances could be coughed up– And oftentimes in the form of a loan from the same institution that took their car and home.

Nowadays, I just try to make a difference with my words.

How do you use distrain in a sentence?

If you do not deliver the money needed to clear yourself of debt, Mr Andrews, then I’m afraid the bank will have to distrain the more market-valuable of your possessions in order to clear the outstanding balance.”

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Written by Veronica Jacobs

Veronica Jacobs is a fiction writer, blogger, academic editor, and sci-fi enthusiast. Currently working freelance (with a background in English Literature), she spends most of her time writing.

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