About forty

At work, we put products in quarantine when they are removed from sale for safety reasons. The word “quarantine” means “about forty,” quarante being the French word for forty. Forty days was the amount of time Christ removed himself from society to fast in the desert. It was also the legal period of time a widow had in which to receive her dower and remain in her husband’s house, and the amount of time a ship that carried diseased passengers had to wait before it would be allowed to disembark. So now any period of isolation or forced removal is called a quarantine, whether close to forty days or not.

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