Up, Off, and Back Again

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning is the simple word OFF.

My first thought was of the way we English speakers use prepositions to add new meaning to verbs. So this little sort-of-tale will be my response to this prompt.

Blow up
Tell off
Tear up
Stomp off
Sober up
Cool down
Think through
Grieve for
‘Fess up
Make up
Work out
Carry on

My dear hubby told me yesterday that he’s having trouble adding an image to his post, so I’ll give it a try. (No problems here.) We’re finding that Word Press has been throwing some wrenches in our gears lately. How about you?

This photo comes from Pixabay, submitted by Steve Buissinne. The words are my adaptation of an old quote.

The Letter I: Uniquely Ours

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I’m not sure there’s another language where the I is pronounced like we English pronounce ours. (Though we must make allowances for the Cockney OY.) There are some dialects that pronounce AYE like our I, but I don’t know of any other language where it stands alone.

However, most of our words that start with I come from Latin, carried across the English Cannel by Roman soldiers, or coming into English via the French adaptation of a Latin word.

Even our simple word INK comes from the French encre, adapted from the Latin encaustum, meaning burned in. The Romans in turn borrowed it from the Greek word encaustos, which is where we get our word CAUSTIC

Actually, many of our IMPORTANT, INTERESTING, INFORMATIVE, and INTRIGUING words start with an I. Im- heads off a number, Imm- some more, and In- starts off a host of words.

Some of these are combos, while others maybe once were, but have become detached from their roots:
We have INERT, but no ERT; INVITE but no VITE.
INVOKE still shows its roots; the –voke comes from vocation.
INVESTIGATE comes from In + vestige, or trace. So you’re looking for traces of the facts when you investigate something.

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Awhile back I started reading a book about the history of Europe from the fall of the Roman Empire, through the Middle Ages, up until the Enlightenment. It was heavy slogging but one thing was clear: the history of Europe has been a long stream of invasion and bloody conquest.

Constant waves of invaders came from the east, the steppes, the Ural mountains: the Franks, the Goths, the Gauls, the Vandals, and a host of others. A lot of these had their turn sacking poor Rome, and then moved on to various other conquests, including the British Isles. Plus there was the era when a good part of Europe was overrun by Muslim armies. Land grab, power grab: this is the history of mankind.

The news this past year has been disturbing to many of us, and leads us to wonder if INSIDIOUS INVADERS are at work behind the scenes. Not wielding swords and charging forth, but playing from the shadows, slinging ink and using social media, hacking, spying. Fueling discord, attacking authority, wishing to bring down the society we have now and replace it with something “better.” But who is really behind the turmoil and mud-slinging we’re seeing today? People may not be such willing puppets if they could see who’s really pulling the strings.

I believe it would be a good thing for us all to read George Orwell’s book, Animal Farm, and refresh our minds as to the possible consequences of “throwing off the yoke of oppression and bringing in a new social order.” If we lose our guiding star in these chaotic times, some power will step in and take control – and they may not be so nice to live under, either.

Our Poor, Neglected H

And now for one of the most misunderstood letters in the English language…

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Accused of being HIGH-BROW or even HAUGHTY, the use of an H is at least controversial. Some groups of English speakers do an automatic delete, and for sure the French do. We can’t blame the use of H and TH on the Norman invaders. Lately I heard a Cockney speaker explaining that if you want to sound like them, “Get rid of the H’s. Don’t need ’em.” Ditto with the TH’s. “Oo needs an H? Ged along royt wew wivoud ’em, we can.”

The other linguistic foible is to stick them in where they don’t belong. “H’Irvin h’Armstrong was here today. He wanted to h’ask you h’if you’d gotten his message?”

But H is here to stay, because we need to HALF– so many things, and because it starts out so many short everyday words we can’t do without:
HURT + HEAL
HOLD + HURL
HELP + HINDER
HIM + HER

Doing some research on the origins of our letter H, I discovered that our H words are mostly Germanic in origin, that their roots go back to a common Indo-European language, and they mostly began with a k or kh sound.
Here, Who, How < kho
Hind (deer) < Kemi
Hip < kheup
Heart < kadia or kerd
Hearth < kherthaz
Help < kelp

The Japanese are fond of their H, giving us words like HONCHO and HAIKU, and who knows how many more if the current linguistic melange continues.

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Dorothy Sayers, in her book, THE FIVE RED HERRINGS, waxed merry with various accents and dropped or added aitches in a realistic way. The book was published in 1931 and she died in 1957, so I’m hoping I’ll be okay reprinting this bit.

Investigating the suspicious death of Mr Campbell, Inspector Macpherson called on Mr. Gowan. When the haughty English butler opened the door, the Inspector asked to speak to the gentleman.
“Mr Gowan is h’out. He’s gone to London.”
In his Broad Scots accent, the inspector explains…
“I will tell ye, wi’oot circumlocution, that there is mair than a suspeecion that the puir gentleman was murdered.”
“So I h’understand.”
“Your name is Halcock, is’t no?”
The butler corrected him. “H’alcock,” he said, reprovingly.
“H, a, double l?”
“There is no h’aitch in the name, young man. H’ay is the first letter, and there is h’only one h’ell.”

Then the Inspector goes on to question Hammond, Mr Gowan’s chauffeur, described as a small, perky man, mongrel in speech, but betraying a strong streak of the fundamental cockney.

“Did ye drive Mr. Gowan onywhere on Monday last?”
“Drove ‘im ter Dumfries. Mr. Alcock comes down when I was ‘avin’ me supper, and says Mr. Gowan wanted the saloon round at 8 o’clock ter tike ‘im ter Dumfries. And I says, ‘Right-oh!’ I says, ‘an’ I can pick up them there pitchers at the same time.’ That’s what I says and that’s what I done.”

As I understand Cockney, this would have sounded like, ” ‘At’s Royt. Drove ‘im ter Dumfries. Mr. Alcock comes down when Oy was ‘avin’ me suppah and says Mr. Gowan wanted the saloon round at oyt o’clock… ‘at’s wha’ Oy says and ‘at’s wha I dun.”

(The WordPress Spell-checker doesn’t like this colloquial post. There are red lines everywhere!)

The Essential E

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and conclude that the letter E holds pride of place in the English language.

You can’t SUCCEED, PROCEED, or even ENTER without it! Yes, the lowly E is NEEDFUL, REQUIRED — the KEYSTONE, EVEN, for most English words.

Fans of cryptograms can tell you that the letter E, and the combo of

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are the first things they look for when setting out to solve the puzzle.

That said, did you know “English” started out milleniums ago meaning a fishhook?

The Angles, a West Germanic people who immigrated to the British Isles, hailed from the Angul district of Schleswig, which is just south of modern Denmark. Their homeland, part of the Jutland peninsula, was shaped somewhat like a fishhook so its inhabitants used their word for fishhook to refer to their country. When they sailed across the sea they brought this name along, plus the words angler and angling. They weren’t the only Germanic people who came and decided to stay; the squeezed-out locals tarred them all with the same brush: Anglo-Saxons.

An Ethnic Legend:
We have a friend whose parents immigrated to Canada from Denmark. When she was young, her father told her that the original inhabitants of Britain couldn’t talk; their only communication was grunts and squeaks. He claimed the Angles were the ones who taught the British how to talk. I’m not sure where he learned this bit of history, but we took it with a grain of sea salt.

Christine’s C Collection

Today I’ll share a few choice words starting with

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And we shall go from…

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Convolute (verb) means to coil, twist or entwine
Convoluted (adjective) is something quite COMPLEX and difficult to follow.
Our word originated centuries ago with the Latin verb convolvere, meaning to roll together, to intertwine.

Yesterday I saw this fine example of “convoluted” in the book I’m reading. This multi-published author normally produces polished work, but this sentence slipped past somehow:
The customers at both tables were openly staring at them with curious expressions on their collective faces.

BUT…
– We’ve already been told there were diners at two other tables.
– Faces is already a plural noun. Scratch COLLECTIVE.
– Where else would they have curious expressions but on their faces?

My suggestion: The other customers eyed them curiously.

Here’s the opening sentence of an article in a Christian newsletter. Brief but rather twisted:
“To read what Jesus said when He prayed for our oneness with Him and the Father gives one many thoughts.”

I can’t think of a brief way to clarify this, but here’s my suggestion:
Many thoughts come to us as we read Jesus prayer (John 17:21-23) where He asks his Father to bless his disciples with a unity of faith and purpose.

If you wish to curry favour
when writing your latest novel, dear,
do your best to trim the excess;
make your meaning simply clear
.

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Another of my favourite C words! Doesn’t it even sound a bit sneaky? A clandestine meeting or operation is one done secretively, especially if the activity is illegal.

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CENTI-anything means one hundred, but has anyone actually COUNTED all the feet on a centipede, or is this just a rough guess? This CRITTER’S colour CLASHES with his environment.

Background by Kytalpa — Pixabay

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Last but not least, if you want to impress your doctor with your grasp of medical matters, ask him if you have too much CERUMEN in your ears.

Are You An Antipode?

Hello Dear Readers

Are you as amazed as I am how fast March went by? We’ve come into April and I see that various bloggers are doing daily prompts and writing challenges. There’s a National Poetry Writing Month, or NaPoWriMO. (You can see a list of participants HERE.) There’s also an A to Z writing challenge. I’m not sure if there’s an official word list, or you make up your own.

The idea of using a letter a day appeals to me, so I’ll make my start belatedly with the letter A and offer you two words, one useful and one intriguing.

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A delightful addition to a writer’s toolbox! They act like seasoning in writing; a sprinkle here and there brings out the flavour, inviting your senses to take part in the scene. “Snoopy did his happy dance” has much more flavour than “Snoopy danced.”

However, every now and then a reader meets a writer who’s a real AFICIONADO of ADJECTIVES, inclined to add them with a too-liberal hand. Writers need to think of ADJECTIVES as the FIBER in their sentences — and realize that modern readers aren’t beavers. Most of us aren’t willing to take the time to gnaw our way through high-fiber paragraphs. I’m inclined to toss a book after the first few pages if it takes too much chewing.

In the following example, see how using many adjectives slows the action down:

For the tenth time that evening Mother pulled the blue-flowered cotton curtain back and peered through the single-pane, white trimmed window that looked over the grass-bordered gravel road coming toward their home. She saw only the crimson sunset on the horizon, the coral-streaked clouds over-layered by a band of magenta rising into deeper purple. As the dusk settled she scanned the road but saw no sign of the old bay mare and the rough-hewn brown wagon in which Father went to town. With a worried frown she turned away, wiping her flushed, tear-stained cheek on the lacy linen handkerchief, a gift from her own grandma, that she always carried in her pocket. She went back to her tiny ten-by-ten-foot farm kitchen, shadowed now by the dimness of the sunset, and proceeded to deal with the cooling remains of the abundant meal she had so lovingly cooked.

Now, here’s the low-fiber version:
Mother pulled the curtain back and peered through the window for the tenth time that evening, seeing only the sunset on the horizon. No horse and buggy carrying Father home to them. She turned away, wiping her cheek and going back to the kitchen to deal with the food still sitting on the table.

Writing instructors these days are saying: “TAKE OUT all the adjectives and only put back in the ones that are necessary to clarify the picture.” Something to think about.

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This is an old Latin word I came across in my search for intrigue. Are you an ANTIPODE? Or would you call me one?

Whether you’re ANTIPODAL or not depends on which side of the world you’re standing on. According to one source, ANTIPODE literally means “people who have their feet opposite.” That is, people who live on the opposite side of the world so the soles of their feet are pointing in our direction. So as I see it, you Aussies are all antipodes.

By the mid-sixteenth century, the concept had morphed into “something or someone on the opposite side of the world/planet/moon.” Nowadays ANTIPODAL can also mean entirely, or diametrically opposed. These adjectives add a lot more punch than a simple “He’s opposed to your scheme.