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What's in a word?

I've often discussed how much I love and value language. The sheer beauty of words, their ability to convey thoughts, ideas, values, images is a never-ending source of delight to me.

There are some words that by their very sound convey their meaning. The term "onomatopoeia" was coined to describe words that derive from the sound of their meaning. Smack, boom, buzz, and murmur are all examples. My favorite is the word Edgar Allen Poe invented to describe the ringing of bells, "tintinnabulation."

But there are some words that grate on me. They seem to almost contradict their very meaning. For example, why is "abbreviate" such a long word?

That's not the worse offender, though. The term for a very fine rain, barely more than droplets, is "drizzle." The harsh "z" sounds strike me as a singularly inappropriate form of expression for such a soft phenomenon.

That's why yesterday morning I described the weather as "misting."

Comments (14)

I think the most awkward wo... (Below threshold)

I think the most awkward word in the English language is "utilize".

The word "use" is so much better in so many other ways.

What I love is when people ... (Below threshold)

What I love is when people are offended by the word "niggardly."

And why is it that monosyll... (Below threshold)

And why is it that monosyllabic - isn't?

To answer Florida Oyster: '... (Below threshold)

To answer Florida Oyster: 'Cause.

Which brings to mind: Why did the crow divorce his wife?
For caws.

And for sheer onomatopoeia: "susurrus."
Ah! Silk sliding down a bare leg....

"Phonetic" ....isn't spelle... (Below threshold)

"Phonetic" ....isn't spelled that way.

Why doesn't "onomatopoeia" ... (Below threshold)

Why doesn't "onomatopoeia" sound like what it is?


My personal favorite is cle... (Below threshold)

My personal favorite is cleave which is an antonym to itself.

Many words in the English l... (Below threshold)

Many words in the English language have two opposite meanings. Some examples:

temper: to harden / to soften
and also: calmness of mind / heat of mind, passion

hacker: tyro / expert

fearful: causing fear / afraid, apprehensive

rocky: firmly held / unstable, wobbly

drum: to summon / to expel

ravel: to entangle / to disentangle

oversight: watchful and responsible care / indavertent omission or error

and on and on . . . A very rich language, indeed!

I collect these and would be interested to hear from anyone who has more.

"The term 'onomatopoeia' wa... (Below threshold)

"The term 'onomatopoeia' was coined to describe words that derive from the sound of their meaning."


I've always wondered what a... (Below threshold)

I've always wondered what a "ped" was. You know, as in "Yield to Peds in Crosswalks".

1) Do they have two legs or four or more? Or do they have no legs and just slither along like snakes or worms? (bleeech)
2) If they have two legs, do they walk upright or hunched over, dragging their knuckles like my brother?
3) Are they furry or hairless or somewhere in between, like me :-( ?
4) Do they have tails? If they do, are their tails prehensile, and can you swing one by its tail?
5) And finally, if I catch one of these creatures outside of a crosswalk, are they fair game? Do I get points for nailing one, ala "Death Race 2000"?

Any help answering these burning questions is greatly appreciated!

And then there are words wh... (Below threshold)

And then there are words which seem to mean the same thing and don't, like player and gamer.

You are assuming that these... (Below threshold)

You are assuming that these words sprung full-blown into the world in modern American pronunication... they didn't. Each word has a history of its own,.

Perhaps from Middle English drisning, fall of dew, from Old English -drysnian, in gedrysnian, to pass away, vanish; see dhreu- in Indo-European roots

Abbreviate ETYMOLOGY: Middle English abbreviaten, from Late Latin abbrevire , abbrevit- : ad-, ad- + brevire, to shorten (from brevis, short; see mregh-u- in Indo-European roots)

I have a bit of a problem w... (Below threshold)
Zsa Zsa:

I have a bit of a problem when people say irregardless!... Regardless is the word not irregardless...It drives me crazy!

The more popular expression... (Below threshold)
jonny z:

The more popular expression of drizzle is the delicious form, especially so when the act involves creamy lemon sauce over succelent shrimp.






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