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.

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.

The Dreadful D’s

Today we’ll dither over

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Thinking about this letter brings to mind a host of depressing words:
Degenerate
Degraded
Demented
Depraved
Depressed
Detest
Dissipated
Dissolute
Drivel

This clever image is by Piyapong Saydaung — Pixabay

Looking on the bright side,

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Words like DAYLIGHT, DAPPER, DARLING, DEAR, DECENT + DELIGHTFUL
help to balance the scale. One of the more appealing D words that comes to my mind is…

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Image by Radoslaw Ciesla — Pixabay

And then there’s

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Which can mean…
Academic, bookish, cerebral, civilized, cultured, enlightened, erudite, highbrow, intellectual, informed, knowledgeable, lettered, pedantic, polished, refined, scholarly, schooled, skilled, trained, versed, well bred.

Pixabay image

In other words, don’t ask DIDACTS to explain what they mean unless you have a lot of time to hear them out.

To Be- or not to Be-

Today let’s take a look at the letter

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This letter brings forth a bounty of delightful words, some very plain like BETTER and BEST, some more intense, like BANDITTI, those dreadful BUSHWHACKERS. And then there are the be- words like BEHEST, BEGET, BEGONE, BENIGHTED, BERATE, BETRAY, BETOSS, BETRAMPLE, BEWARE. You can probably think of many more.

And BI- words…And BY-words.

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Image by Capri23 Auto — Pixabay

Did you know that the word BRUSQUE is derived from the name of an unpleasant spine-covered shrub called “the butcher’s broom”? The Latin name, bruscum became the Italian brusco and the meaning morphed into sharp , tart, or sour. The French adopted it as BRUSQUE, and understood it to mean fierce or lively. We Anglophones kept the French version, but added an adaptation of our own for good measure: the word BRISK.

And now a lively little verse that I penned on Saturday, when FLAMFOO was the prompt at Word of the Day..

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I’ve never been a flamfoo,
just do enough to pass;
a shower and a shampoo,
bedecked in simple class.

Never tried to look bepranked
in duds that gleam or flash,
nor as a fashion-plate be ranked
I’d rather bank my cash.

Wash and wear” is my one speed
and minimum my taste;
bedizenments I don’t need,
those primps and perms a waste.

You may lament my brusquerie,
berate my spartan leaning,
but I’ll bypass the frippery,
let others do the preening.

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.

A Writer’s Cloud Nine

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning is OSCILLATE

Seeing this word piqued my curiosity. What’s the difference between OSCILLATE and VACILLATE?

Pursuing this inkblot of thought has put me on a cloud nine a-puff with a plethora of delectable VERBS!

Over at one of my favorite hangouts, Merriam-Webster, I’ve learned that
Oscillate means to swing back and forth,
or move back and forth between two points
For example: an oscillating electric fan.
You can oscillate between opposing beliefs, feelings, or theories
For example, the way people’s moods and views on whatever tend to do.
Oscillate can mean a variation from a fixed or given point
For example: Stats, interest rates, test results that vary from the norm.
Or how clean your laundry actually get compared to those in the ads for new Blastout laundry detergent.

All the lovely & useful words explained for comparison sake:
swing, sway, vibrate, fluctuate, waver, undulate

When I hear the word OSCILLATE my mind automatically goes to a fan, because it carries the sense of a regular or timed back & forth.

Vacillate means:
– to waver in mind, will, or feeling, hesitate between choices
– prolonged hesitation from inability to reach a firm decision.
Pondering, “Should I or shouldn’t I?” is vacillating if you do it for long.

Or to sway through lack of equilibrium, to fluctuate, oscillate. When I think of VACILLATE, I automatically think of indecision.

More lovely and useful synonyms:
Hesitate, waver, dither, teeter

Word lover that I am, this is like a trip through the chocolate factory, inhaling the aromas. I hesitate to promise I’ll put all these useful verbs to use –and I may vacillate at times as to which one to choose – but it’s always good to understand the nuances.