Author Archive

  • Word roots and routes: sit and stand

    Posted by on September 22, 2014

    Next in a series of posts exploring some of the ‘roots’ and ‘routes’ of English vocabulary. The verb sit has the transitive, causal equivalent set, originally to ’cause to sit‘, or ‘put into a seated position’, but of course the meanings of set have diversified greatly, and the usual way of expressing ‘put into a […]

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  • Exactly, but not exactly

    Posted by on September 08, 2014

    The basic meanings of ‘exactly’ are: 1 not more and not less – e.g. ‘Is it really important to measure the quantities exactly?’ 2 completely / in every way – e.g. ‘You haven’t changed at all – you look exactly the same’. Apart from these, ‘exactly’ has a number of other common, pragmatic uses, especially […]

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  • Word roots and routes: village, town, city

    Posted by on August 25, 2014

    Next in a series of posts exploring some of the ‘roots’ and ‘routes’ of English vocabulary. The word village is related to villa, which was originally a country dwelling with a farm and/or other surrounding houses, although it later became applied to an individual large, elegant residence with extensive grounds. Another word related to village […]

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  • Word roots and routes: bear

    Posted by on August 11, 2014

    Next in a series of posts exploring some of the ‘roots’ and ‘routes’ of English vocabulary. The verb bear has very deep, tenacious roots. It was beran in Old English, and this in turn was a development from an Indo-European root which already had the dual meanings of ‘carry’ and ‘give birth‘. One word related […]

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  • What kinda people say “could of”?

    Posted by on August 06, 2014

    In a survey of attitudes to disputed usages in English, respondents were presented with three sentences and asked the following questions about them: “Is it acceptable in English today, would you use it yourself? If so, where and when? If not, why not? If you think the sentence is unacceptable, why would that be the […]

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  • Word roots and routes: heart

    Posted by on July 30, 2014

    Next in a series of posts exploring some of the ‘roots’ and ‘routes’ of English vocabulary. Heart (Germanic) has relatives in words beginning with card- (from Greek) and cord- / cour- (from Latin/French).* The Greek root is used in medical terminology; cardiac arrest, for example, is a term used by medical professionals for what the […]

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  • Word roots and routes: dict

    Posted by on July 14, 2014

    Next in a series of posts exploring some of the ‘roots’ and ‘routes’ of English vocabulary. Although say, tell and word are of Germanic origin, like most of the commonest English words, quite a bit of other vocabulary connected with words and with saying is derived from Latin dicere (= ‘say’). To dictate was originally […]

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  • Word roots and routes: sun

    Posted by on June 30, 2014

    Next in a series of posts exploring some of the ‘roots’ and ‘routes’ of English vocabulary. Sun and son are homophones – they happen to have the same pronunciation, but their spellings are different, and their meanings and origins are unrelated. Germanic, Latin and Greek have all contributed to our vocabulary connected with the sun. Germanic […]

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  • Word roots and routes: moon

    Posted by on June 16, 2014

    Next in a series of posts exploring some of the ‘roots’ and ‘routes’ of English vocabulary. Throughout the ages, people have gazed at the moon in its changing manifestations, worshipped it, invested it with magical powers or human characteristics, and woven it into myths and stories. In some languages it even gives its name to […]

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  • Word roots and routes: duce, duct

    Posted by on June 02, 2014

    Next in a series of posts exploring some of the ‘roots’ and ‘routes’ of English vocabulary. Another productive Latin source of English vocabulary is the verb ducere (‘lead’) and its past participle stem duct-. A duke, for example (related words: ducal, duchess, duchy, dukedom), was originally a kind of ‘leader’. Some ‘duct‘ words share the […]

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