Monday, November 30, 2009

Origins -'Allness'.

Latin omnis, all, is the origin of:
1.omnipotent – all-powerful, an adjective usually applied to God; also, to any ruler whose governing powers are unlimited, which allows for some exaggeration, as King Canute proved to his sycophantic courtiers when he ordered the tide to come so far up the beach and no further. He got soaking wet! (omnis plus Latin potens, potentis, powerful, as in potentate, a powerful ruler; impotent, powerless; potent, powerful; and potential, possessing power or ability not yet exercised).
2.omniscient – all-knowing: hence, infinitely wise. (Omnis plus sciens, knowing.)
3.omnipresent – present in all places at once. Fear was omnipresent in Europe during 1939 just before World War II. A synonym of omnipresent is ubiquitous, from Latin ubique, everywhere. The ubiquitous ice cream vendor seems to be everywhere at the same time, tinkling those little bells, once spring arrives. The ubiquitous little wagon travels around everywhere in airports to refuel departing planes. ‘Ubiquitous laughter greeted the press secretary’s remark’, i.e., laughter was heard everywhere in the room. The noun form is ubiquity.
4.omnibus – etymologically, ‘for all, including all’. In the shortened form bus we have a public vehicle for all who can pay; in a John Galsworthy omnibus we have a book containing all of Galsworthy’s works; in an omnibus legislative bill we have a bill containing all the miscellaneous provisions and appropriations left out of other bills.
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Saturday, November 28, 2009

Putting Nouns into the Plural - Words ending in -O.

Most simply add -s – including:
X. words where the -o is preceded by a vowel: cameos, cuckoos, embryos, radios, portfolios, studios, tattoos, zoos.
X. shortened words: hippos, photos, rhinos, typos, videos.
X. many ‘exotic’, un-English words: albinos, armadillos, dittos, Eskimos, Filipinos, infernos, quangos, stilettos.
Some, however (including many quite everyday words), take -es: cargoes, dominoes, echoes, heroes, potatoes, tomatoes.
Others use either ending, though with a preference for the one shown here: buffaloes, commandos, frescoes, ghettos, halos, mangoes, mottoes, porticoes, tobaccos, volcanoes, zeros.
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Friday, November 27, 2009

Origins - You can't go home again.

Nostalgia, built on two Greek roots, nostos, a return, and algos, pain (as in neuralgia, cardialgia, etc.) is a feeling you can’t ever understand until you’ve experienced it – and you have probably experienced it whenever some external stimulus has crowed your mind with scenes from an earlier day.
You know how life often seems much pleasanter in restrospect? Your conscious memory tends to store up the pleasant experiences of the past (the trauma and unpleasant experiences may get buried in the unconscious), and when you are lonely or unhappy you may begin to relive these pleasant occurrences. It is then that you feel the emotional pain and longing that we call nostalgia.
The adjective is nostalgic, as in films that are nostalgic of the fifties’, or as in ‘he feels nostalgic whenever he passes Vaughan Gardens and sees the house in which he grew up’.
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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Grammar - Clauses as Subjects.

Clauses can act as subjects of verbs. They usually take a singular verb:
That such things should occur is surprising.
To treat 18-year-olds as children is patronising.
Caring for all aspects of home and family takes a lotof time.
What-clauses are different, however. Here agreement depends on whether the clause refers to a thing or to several things:
What was their garden is now a car park.
What seemed good reasons at the time now look
unconvincing. (That is, the reasons now look unconvincing.)
Sometimes you can choose, especially when the complement of the main verb is plural, though the singular form remains slightly preferable.
When we need is/are donations – Donations are what we need.
What I saw was/were two enormous balloons – Two enormous balloons were what I saw.
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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Origins - An exploration of various good things.

A euphemism is a word or expression that has been substituted for another that is likely to offend – it is built on Greek prefix eu-, good, the root pheme, voice, and the noun suffix -ism. (Etymologically, ‘something said in a good voice!’) Adjective: euphemistic.
Other English words constructed from the prefix eu-:
1.euphony – good sound; pleasant lilt or rhythm (phone, sound).
Adjective: euphonic or euphonious.
2.eulogy – etymologically, ‘good speech’; a formal speech of praise, usually delivered as a funeral oration. Logos in this term means word or speech, as it did in philology. Logos more commonly means science or study, but has the alternative meaning in eulogy, philology, monologue, dialogue, epilogue (words upon the other words, or ‘after-words’), and prologue (words before the main part, ‘before-words’, or introduction).
Adjective: eulogistic; verb: eulogize; person who delivers a eulogy: eulogist.
3.euphoria – good feeling, a sense of mental buoyancy and physical well-being. Adjective: euphoric.
4.euthanasia – etymologically, ‘good death’; method of painless death inflicted on people suffering from incurable diseases – not legal at the present time, but advocated by many people. The words derives from eu- plus Greek thanatos, death.
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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Grammar - What is a Phrase?

The word ‘phrase’ is often used loosely to mean any group of words that form a unit. In grammar, it means a word or group of words that has a single function within a clause or another phrase.
Take the sentence The boy patted the dog. Although there are five words, there are three distinct parts – the boy, patted, and the dog. So the boy is a phrase, in this case a ‘noun phrase’ acting as the subject; patted is the verb; and the dog is another noun phrase, here the object of the verb.
Now take a sentence that is clearly ambiguous: She attacked the man with the knife. The pronoun she is the subject phrase, and attacked is the verb. But what about the rest?
There are two ways of analyzing the sentence. In one (where the man has the knife), the man with the knife is one constituent part – a noun phrase, acting as the object of attacked. It can be broken down further into a noun phrase the man, plus a subordinate prepositional phrase with the knife.
In the other meaning (where she uses a knife when attacking the man), the full object is now simply the man. You could reword the sentence as With a knife she attacked the man or She attacked the man viciously. The phase with the knife is therefore an adverbial phase – it acts like an adverb.
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Monday, November 23, 2009

The Roots Of English – The World Contracts

The late 15th to 17th centuries – the English Renaissance – saw more and more borrowings. The introduction of printing by William Caxton in 1476 helped to spread new words. The voyages of exploration and the widening of European trade brought new products to England, each of which needed a name. So did the technical and scientific discoveries of the age. Above all, the spirit of enquiry and the spread of writing and reading for education and pleasure encouraged the adoption of large numbers of new words.
Just about any Latin verb could be turned into an English abstract noun by substituting -ion for the -um ending of the past participle. So tractum (from the verb trahere, to drag) gives traction; monstratum (from monstrare, to show) gives demonstration; probatum (from probare, to make or find good) gives probation, and so on. The present participles of Latin verbs provided the basis for English adjectives ending in -ent or -ant, such as permanent (from manens, present participle of manere, to remain), tolerant, and constant.
Other languages too were beginning to leave their mark on English. Greek had been studied up to a point in the medieval universities, but new access to the philosophical and scientific works of ancient Greece opened the path to a new technical stratum of English vocabulary.
Words such as anachronism, atmosphere, antithesis, chaos, climax, crisis, emphasis, enthusiasm, parasite, parenthesis, pneumonia, scheme, system, and tactics came into English from Greek by way of Latin. Direct borrowings include anonymous, catastrophe, criterion, idiosyncrasy, lexicon, misanthrope, orthodox, thermometer, and tonic.
There were loans from Arabic too. During the Middle Ages the Arabs were in the forefront of scientific and medical research. English gained terms like alcohol, algebra, algorithm (recently repopularised by computer programmers), arsenal, and syrup. Some words for Arabic luxuries and customs that had been brought back to Europe by the Crusaders also made their way into English: artichoke, carafe, jar, cotton, and sofa.
Another language whose influence became ever more important as trade increased was Dutch (or Flemish). Not surprisingly, the area of shipping owes much of its vocabulary to Dutch – deck, dock, skipper, boom, and yacht, for example. The skill of Dutch artists is reflected in loans such as easel, landscape, sketch, and etch.
For much of the Renaissance, Europe looked to Italy for inspiration. The obvious culinary terms (spaghetti, espresso, and so on) and musical terms (allegro, cello, sonata) are mostly later borrowings. But the Italian culture of the Renaissance and since has also given arcade, balcony, brigand, bronze, caress, colonel, dilettante, fiasco, graffiti, influenza, replica, scenario, sonnet, studio, and umbrella.
The great early colonial powers, Spain and Portugal, provided, English with further new words. Spanish loans into English, from then and later, include anchovy, armada, bonanza, bravado, cafeteria, cask, cigar, guerrilla, lasso, patio, ranch, siesta, stampede, and tornado. Portuguese has given English albatross, albino, brocade, cobra, creole, palaver, rusk, and the wine port.
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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Grammar - What is a Preposition?

Prepositions are again mostly little words. They typically come in front of noun phrases and pronouns, and tell you something about place, time, reason, and so on. Examples are on the bus; at home; opposite the table; until Tuesday; after Christmas; at the weekend; of butter; by looking. Phrases of this sort are called prepositional phrases.
Some preposition (‘compound prepositions’) are made up of more than one word: in front of, because of, apart from, according to. American English has a tendency to use such compound prepositions more than British English – in back of as well as behind, for instance.
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Friday, November 20, 2009

Origins - How to look

The Latin root specto, to look, is the source of a host of common English words: spectacle, spectator, inspect, retrospect (a looking back), prospect (a looking ahead), etc. In a variant spelling, spic-, the root is found in conspicuous (easily seen or looked at), perspicacious, and perspicuous.
A perspicacious person is keen-minded, mentally sharp, astute. Per- is a prefix meaning through; so the word etymologically means looking through (matters, etc.) keenly, intelligently. The noun of perspicacious is perspicacity.
Perspicacity is a synonym of acumen, mental keenness, sharpness, quickness; keen insight. The root is Latin acuo, to sharpen.
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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Grammar - What is an Adverb?

Just as an adjective describes, or qualifies or modifies, a noun, so an adverb typically modifies a verb. It tells how, when, where, why, or how often an action takes place: He plays well; Jane left sulkily; They arrived late; Don’t sit there. Adverbs share many of the features of adjectives, such as comparison – tiredly, more tiredly, most tiredly.
The most typical kind of adverb is derived from an adjective by adding -ly: tiredly, sulkily. But beware – many words ending in -ly are in fact adjectives: friendly, lonely, sometimes even kindly, as in She is a kindly old soul.
Adverbs are the ragbag of grammar: only, so, even, quite, soon, here, specially, prettily, probably, and however are adverbs, but grammatically they do not have a lot in common.
Adverbs can also modify adjectives and other adverbs, as in a very unusual colour, only four men, and They came extremely quickly. Sometimes, they appear ‘outside’ the normal structure of sentences, telling you something about the speaker’s attitude towards the event reported: Regrettably, we can’t come; Perhaps they’ll agree. They can also be used when making a transition from one sentence to another; Jane liked him a lot. I, however, know better – he’s an absolute rotter.
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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Origins - Belief and Disbelief

Credulous comes from Latin credo, to believe, the same root found in credit (if people believe in your honesty, they will extend credit to you; they will credit what you say). -Ous is an adjective suffix that usually signifies full of. So, strictly, credulous means full of believingness.
Do not confuse credulous with credible. In the latter word we see combined the root credo, believe, with -ible, a suffix meaning can be. Something credible can be believed.
Let’s note some differences:
Credulous listeners – those who fully believe what they hear.
A credible story – one that can be believed.
An incredulous attitude – an attitude of skepticism, of non-belief.
An incredible story – one that cannot be believed.
Incredible characters – persons who are so unusual that you can scarcely believe they exist.
Nouns are formed as follows:
credulous – credulity.
incredulous – incredulity.
credible – credibility.
incredible – incredibility.
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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Grammer - What is a verb?

Verbs are sometimes defined as ‘doing’ words – words that indicate what is being done in a sentence. But this is not always helpful. In the sentence This is hard work, presumably what is being done is work. But work here is a noun, whereas the verb is is.
Without doubt, the best test for a verb is this: does it have forms that indicate whether the action takes place now or at some time in the past? – work/worked; take/took. (But note that some do not actually change their form; for example, spread/spread, hit/hit.)
Most verbs fall into one of three categories. The first two types can exist on their own, and are called ‘main’ or ‘lexical’ verbs.
X . ‘doing’ verbs (in a very wide sense), such as approach, do, go, like, and want. The verb tells you something about the activities of its subject: Fred approached the fierce lion.
X . ‘being’ and ‘becoming’ verbs, which make some kind of equation between the subject and the complement that follows them. In a sense John became manager says ‘John = manager’; You sound bored says ‘You = bored’.
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Monday, November 16, 2009

Origins - Living it up

Among many others, the following English words derive from Latin vivo, to live:
1.Vivacious – full of the joy of living; animated; peppy – a vivacious personality. Noun: vivacity (vi-VAS’-i-ti). You can, as you know, also add -ness to any adjective to form a noun.
2.Vivid – possessing the freshness of life; strong; sharp – a vivid imagination; a vivid colour.
3.Revive – bring back to life. In the 1960s, men’s fashions of the twenties were revived. Noun: revival.
4.Vivisection – operating on a live animal. Sect- is from a Latin verb meaning to cut. Vivisection is the process of experimenting on live animals to discover causes and cures of disease. Antivivisectionists object to the procedure, though many of our most important medical discoveries were made through vivisection.
5.Viviparous – producing live babies. Human beings and most other mammals are viviparous. Viviparous is contrasted with oviparous, producing young from eggs. Most fish, fowl, and other lower forms of life are oviparous.
The combining root in both these adjectives is Latin pareto, to give birth (parent comes from the same root). In oviparous, the first two syllables derive from Latin ovum, egg.
Ovum, egg, is the source of oval and ovoid, egg-shaped; ovulate, to release an egg from the ovary: ovum the female germ cell which, when fertilized by a sperm, develops into an embryo, then into a foetus, and finally, in about 280 days in the case of humans, is born as an infant.
The adjectival form of ovary is ovarian; of foetus, foetal.
Love, you may or may not be surprised to hear, also comes from ovum.
No, not the kind of love you’re thinking of. Latin ovum became oeuf in French, or with ‘the’ preceding the noun (the egg), l’oeuf. Zero (picture it for a moment) is shaped like an egg (O), so if your score in tennis is ‘fifteen, and your opponent’s is zero, you shout triumphantly, fifteen love!’.
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Friday, November 13, 2009

Some Common Combining Forms - Words using bene-, benign-.

Like its opposite male- (bad), bene- (good, well) is simply a Latin adverb used to modify the meaning of words. A benediction is a ‘good speaking’, particularly a blessing in church. A benefactor is a ‘do-gooder’, though without negative connotations; it is most often used to mean a ‘patron’. The person who receives the benevolence of a benefactor is a beneficiary. People who inherit are beneficiaries of a will. Beneficial means ‘doing good’, in the way that fresh air benefits your health.
A related form, benign-, meant originally ‘well-born’ or ‘noble’. It now turns up in words meaning ‘kind, friendly’, such as benign and benignant. You can compare the change in meaning of the word gentle, which also started off meaning ‘noble’, as in gentleman and of gentle birth.
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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Origins - Under and Over

Hypochondria is built on two Greek roots: hypos, under, and chondros, the cartilage of the breastbone. This may sound farfetched until you realize that under the breastbone is the abdomen; the ancient Greeks believed that morbid anxiety about one’s health arose in the abdomen – and no one is more morbidly, unceasingly, and unhappily anxious about health than the hypochondriac.
Hypochondriac is also an adjective – an alternative adjectival form is hypochondrical .
Hypos, under, is a useful root to know. The hypodermic needle penetrates under the skin; a hypothyroid person has an under-working thyroid gland; hypotension is abnormally low blood pressure.
On the other hand, hyper is the Greek root meaning over. The hypercritical person is excessively fault-finding; hyperthyroidism is an overworking of the thyroid gland; hypertension is high blood pressure; and you can easily work out the meanings of hyperacidity, hyperactive, hypersensitive, etc.
The adjectival forms of hypotension and hypertension are hypotensive and hypertensive.
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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

PREFIXES - Words with ob-,ox-,of-,op-.

It is often difficult to recognize ob- as a prefix because of its variants and its lack of consistent meaning.
The ‘towards’ or ‘against’ meaning can be seen in words such as obtrude, literally, to thrust towards, and so to force an opinion ‘upon others’. Object contains the idea of throwing against. From this comes the meaning ‘to criticise, oppose’, as when you object to someone’s behavior or to a statement. An object, a thing, was originally something thrown in the way and thus something tangible, or a goal or purpose.
An easier etymology is that for opportunity. An opportune wind was one that blew you towards the port, and thus a favourable one.
Ob- can also act as an intensifier. This comes out in obnoxious, ‘thoroughly poisonous’; oppress, ‘to press or lie heavily upon’; obtain, ‘to take (firm) hold of’; and obdurate, ‘thoroughly hardened’, and so ‘hardened against persuasion, unyielding; hard-hearted or pig-heades’.
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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Origins - Just for one's own amusement

Dilettante is from the Italian verb dilettare, to delight. The dilettante paints, writes, composes, plays a musical instrument, or engages in scientific experiments purely for amusement – not to make money, become famous, or satisfy a deep creative urge (the latter, I presume, being the justifications for the time that professional artists, writers, composers, musicians, poets, and scientists spend at their chosen work). A dilettantish (dil-i-TAN’-tish) attitude is superficial, unprofessional; dilettantism is superficial, part-time dabbling in the type of activity that usually engages the full time and energy of the professional artist or scientist.
Do not confuse the dilettante, who has a certain amount of native talent or ability, with the tyro, who is the inexperienced beginner in some art, but who may be full of ambition, drive, and energy. To call a person a tyro is to imply that he is just starting in some artistic, scientific, or professional field – he’s not much good yet because he has not had time to develop his skill, if any. The dilettante usually has some skill but isn’t doing much with it. On the other hand, anyone who has developed consummate skill in an artistic field, generally allied to music, is called a virtuoso – like Yehudi Menuhin on the violin or Arthur Rubinstein on the piano. Pluralize virtuoso in the normal way – virtuosos; or if you wish to sound more sophisticated, give it the continental form – virtuosi. Similarly, the plural of dilettante is either dilettantes or dilettanti (dil-i-TAN’-ti).
The i, ending for a plural is the Italian form and is common in musical circles. For example, libretto, the story (or book) of an opera, may be pluralized to libretti; concerto, a form of musical composition, is pluralized concerti. However, the Anglicized librettos and concertos are perfectly correct also.
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Monday, November 9, 2009

PREFIXES - Words with de-.

Like others, the prefix de- has several different meanings. Its most basic sense is ‘away, off. You can see this meaning in the words debar, to shut out or away; defend, to ward off danger or attack; and defer, to put off or delay.
It can also mean ‘less’ or ‘down’, as in decline, to bend or sink downwards, both literally, as of one’s head, and of things like health; demote, to move down, especially in status; and of course descend and decrease.
The other common function of de- is to show the reverse of an action, that is, the opposite or undoing of the action. Hence, depreciate, the opposite of appreciate; decipher, literally, to take out of code; deform, to spoil the shape of; dehumidify, to take the humidity out of; and depopulated, used to describe a region when part of the population has moved away.
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Saturday, November 7, 2009

Origins - A Walkaway

A ambulatory patient, as in a hospital or convalescent home, is finally well enough to get out of bed and walk around. A perambulator, often shortened to pram, is a baby carriage, a vehicle for walking an infant through the streets (per-, through). To perambulate is, etymologically, ‘to walk through’; hence, to stroll around.
To amble is to walk aimlessly; an ambulance is so called because originally it was composed of two stretcher-bearers who walked of the battlefield with a wounded soldier; and a preamble is, by etymology, something that ‘walks before’ (pre-, before, beforehand), hence an introduction or introductory statement, a preamble to the speech, etc; or any event that is introductory or preliminary to another, as in ‘An increase in inflationary factors in the economy is often a preamble to a drop in the stock market.’
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Friday, November 6, 2009

Roots - Words from Vers, Vert

The basic sense of ‘turning’ is clear in words such as reverse, obverse, and invert. The purpose of an advertisement is to turn you to it, or to the product it displays. Thea- in a vert comes from ab-, ‘away’. So you might a vert your gaze from something, or try to a vert an accident by taking precautions. If you have an a version to something, it ‘turns you off.
Divert and its derivative diversion both contain the idea of ‘turning away’. You can divert someone’s attention from something. Traffic might have to turn off the main road, because of roadworks, and use a diversion. These words can also have the sense of ‘distraction, entertainment’; a hobby is a diversion, something that turns your attention away from your everyday work, for instance. Related to these words are the adjective diverse, meaning ‘varied’, and its noun diversity.
This leads to the idea of ‘change’. A version of something is that thing with some changes made to it. Most of the meanings of convert and convertible have the idea of change. A convert is someone who has changed to a new religion or set of beliefs. You can convert your pounds into francs at a bank. If two people exchange ideas or small talk, they converse or have a conversation.
Other common words using this root are: controversy, conversant, incontrovertible, inverse, irreversible, subversive, traverse.
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Thursday, November 5, 2009

Origins - At Large

We discovered magnus, large, big, great, and find it in magniloquent (etymologically, ‘talking big’). The root occurs in a number of other words:
1.Magnanimous – big-hearted, generous, forgiving (etymologically, ‘great-minded). (Magnus plus animus, mind).
2.Magnate – a person of great power or influence, a big wheel, as a business magnate.
3.Magnify – to make larger, or make seem larger (magnus plus –fy from facio, to make), as in ‘magnify your problems’.
4.Magnificent – magnus plus fic-, from facio.
5.Magnitude – magnus plus the common noun suffix –tude, as in fortitude, multitude, gratitude, etc.
6.Magnum (as of champagne or wine) – a large bottle, generally twice the size of a standard bottle.
7.Magnum opus – etymologically, a ‘big work’; actually, the greatest work, or masterpiece, of an artist, writer, or composer. Opus is the Latin word for work; the plural of opus is used in the English word opera, etymologically, ‘a number of works’, actually a musical drama containing overture, singing, and other forms of music, i.e. many musical works.The verb form opero, to work, occurs in operate, co-operate, operator, etc.
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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Roots - Words From Sed,Sede,Sid,Sess

The Latin verbs sedeo, sedo, and sido are distantly related to our native English verbs sit and set. Latin also had related words with the stem sit. From these come many words relating to position, such as a building site or a situation.
The potential confusion between this root and the root ced, cede makes it worth while trying to learn which words use which root. If you do, it will help your spelling.
The idea of ‘sitting’ is often prominent in words derived from sedeo. A sedentary job involves a lot of sitting. A session is a ‘sitting’, as of a court, and so a single meeting of any organised group. The chairman might preside at this meeting, which means that he ‘sits in front’ of it. From this come words like president and presidential.
From ‘sitting’ it is a short way to the idea of ‘setting’ and from there to ‘relaxation’. A sediment is a deposit of solids that has settled at the bottom of a liquid. Someone who is sedate is easy-going and unruffled. This state can be achieved artificially by taking sedatives.
The place where you are settled is your residence. You reside there. Hence resident and residential. The word reside can also be used figuratively – the highest judicial power in Britain resides in the House of Lords.
Obsess, obsession, and obsessive, have the prefix ob-, meaning ‘in front of’. The original Latin word meant to ‘ambush’ or ‘besiege’. It is easy to see how an obsession might be thought of as something that ‘besieges’ someone.
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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Origins - Better Left Unsaid

Tacit (TAS’-it) derives also from taceo.
Here is a man dying of cancer. He suspects what his disease is, and everyone else, of course, knows. Yet he never mentions the dread word, and no one who visits him ever breathes a syllable of it in his hearing. It is tacitly understood by all concerned that the word will remain forever unspoken.
(Such a situation today, however, may or may not be typical – there appears to be a growing tendency among doctors and families to be open and honest with people who are dying.)
Consider another situation:
An executive is engaging in extracurricular activities with his secretary. Yet during office time they are as formal and distant as any two human beings can well be. Neither of them ever said to the other, ‘Now, look here, we may be lover after five o’clock, but between nine and five we must preserve the utmost decorum, okay?’ Such speech, such a verbal arrangement, is considered unnecessary – so we may say that the two have a tacit agreement (i.e. nothing was ever actually said) to maintain a complete employer-employee relationship during office hours.
Anything tacit, then, is unspoken, unsaid, not verbalized. We speak of a tacit agreement, arrangement, acceptance, rejection, assent, refusal, etc. A person is never called tacit.
The noun is tacitness. (Bear in mind that you can transform any adjective into a noun by adding -ness, though in many cases there may be a more sophisticated, or more common, noun form.)
Changing the a of the root taceo to i, and adding the prefix re-, again, and the adjective suffix -ent, we can construct the English word reticent.
Someone is reticent who prefers to keep silent, whether out of shyness, embarrassment, or fear of revealing what should not be revealed. (The idea of ‘againness’ in the prefix has been lost in the current meaning of the word.)
We have frequently made nouns out of -ent adjectives. The noun form of reticent is reticence.
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Monday, November 2, 2009

Variations on a Theme- Words from Fac, Fact, Fect, Fict

Most of the many words using this root still have a clear idea of doing or making. A fact is something done, or made true. A factory is where things are made. The manu- in manufacture is Latin for ‘by hand’, as in manuscript.
Fiction is something made up in your head – whether a story or a lie.
Facile means, literally, ‘able to be done’. It has come to mean ‘easy to do, requiring little thought or skill’. So a facile answer or person is a shallow or unconvincingly glib one. Facility is easy skill as in speaking Chinese with facility. A facility makes your life or work easier – it might be a building, room, or piece of equipment.
To affect a person or thing is to do something to (ad-) it. What has been done to it, that is, the result or consequence of an action, is an effect, literally ‘done from’ (ex-). You can also effect a change, an arrest, or a cure, that is, do it or bring it about. An efficient method or machine does or performs its function with little wasted effort.
Something infected is literally ‘done in’. Something has got into it and is affecting it for the worse. Wounds may get infected by bacteria. Your mind might be infected by doubt.
The prefix per- means ‘through’ or else ‘thoroughly’. A perfect piece of work is one that has been gone through or done completely.
Other words using the fac root and its variants include affection, defect, deficient, factor, and proficient. Even the suffix -ify is related. To beautify, unify, or petrify something means to make it more beautiful, make it one, or turn it into stone.
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