The Random Comic Strip

The Random Comic Strip

Words to live by...

"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and to rest afterward."

[Spanish Proverb]

Ius luxuriae publice datum est

(The right to looseness has been officially given)

"Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders," wrote Ludwig von Mises, "no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interest, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle."

Apparently, the crossword puzzle that disappeared from the blog, came back.


Thursday, December 3, 2009

May I Have a Word With You?

Criticism is only words about words, and of what use are words about such words as these? [G.K. Chesterton]


Words are fascinating things. When I was young, quite young, and learning to read, I was taught to "sound out" new words while reading. That is, break them down into "chunks" of sounds in order to get an idea of how to pronounce them

You know, "th" and "ph" and short "i's" versus long ones and so on. The problem was that this didn't help me learn anything other than that there were some odd combinations of letters that didn't make a lot of sense. And that words, repeated over and over, eventually made no sense either.

You can take any word, repeat it many times, and you will lose the connection to the meaning. Ok, maybe you can't but I can. A word is simply a jumble of sounds that are accepted by the people who use that particular language to mean something. And even that something can fluctuate within a language.

Think about it. Why do we say "tree" for something which is live, has leaves (well, most of the time), roots in the ground, and may (or may not) bear fruit? Linguists will point to root words and adaptations from older languages and such but they have the same problem. Somewhere, way back in time, some humans decided some sounds best described an object or an action. They agreed on this and language was born.

The problem I have is that words don't always make sense to me.

There is a famous one about "disgruntled employee". "Disgruntled" means "unhappy", "peevish", "grouchy", "sullen", "complaining." So, "grunt" may have something to do with it. Except wouldn't "gruntled" make more sense if that was the case? Except "Gruntle" means "To grunt; to grunt repeatedly." And "dis" is a prefix that has a reversing affect...

a Latin prefix meaning “apart,” “asunder,” “away,” “utterly,” or having a privative, negative, or reversing force (see de-, un- 2 ); used freely, esp. with these latter senses, as an English formative: disability; disaffirm; disbar; disbelief; discontent; dishearten; dislike; disown.

So wouldn't "disgruntled" mean something like "having grunts removed"?
I get so confused by these things. And I worry about them. And me.

7 comments:

Paul E. Giroux said...

I also did the repeat a word ad infinitum until it made no sense. Then I did it using my name which really made me feel like a nobody. To top it off I started saying my name backwards, i.e. laup xuorig, pronounced "lop ooxrig" or something like that .... love it

Gregory said...

would have to rank up there with de-thaw

The Jules said...

Why do Americans say "burglarised" when someone's been burgled?

Although, we don't get hospitalled do we?

MilesPerHour said...

This is something that would be good to conversate about.

Douglas said...

Paul, Meet Salguod...

Greg, there are so many, it boggles the mind. I wonder if anything else can be boggled?

Jules, just explain to me why you guys "go to hospital" instead of "to the hospital."

MPH, now you're verbifying...

The Jules said...

Why do Americans say "burglarised" when someone's been burgled?

Although, we don't get hospitalled do we?

Paul E. Giroux said...

I also did the repeat a word ad infinitum until it made no sense. Then I did it using my name which really made me feel like a nobody. To top it off I started saying my name backwards, i.e. laup xuorig, pronounced "lop ooxrig" or something like that .... love it