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.
A Night Unremembered
6 years ago