Archive for August, 2009

August 31st, 2009 - 2:00 pm § in back-formation, etymology, mass nouns, shakespeare, word formation, word origins


What is back-formation? Back-formation is when a shorter word (lexeme) is created from a longer word. Back-formation occurs when an affix (prefix, suffix) is taken away from a word to create a new one. The term back-formation refers to this process. Remember how the word “pea” came from [...]

August 28th, 2009 - 5:09 pm § in etymology, shakespeare, vocabulary, word origins, words of the day

Words of the day

Every Friday I’m going to post about the etymology (origins) of a few choice words or phrases. “for ever and a day” – meaning indefinitely. This comes from Shakespeare. He used it in two of his plays…1. The Taming of the Shrew (1596): BIONDELLO: I cannot tell; expect th[...]

August 27th, 2009 - 9:02 pm § in shakespeare, word formation

Shakespeare’s Contributions to English (part 1)

(Looking for Part 2? Click here.) If you want to charge someone with a crime, there’s a word for it: you accuse them.  If you want to give a winning athlete a title, there’s a term for it: you call them a champion.  If you’re in a rush, you hurry.  If something’s grand and wonderful, [&he[...]

August 26th, 2009 - 9:53 pm § in mysteries of english, pronunciation

Knight versus Night

Have you ever wondered why we have silent k’s in words that begin “kn”? Words like knife, knight, knock, knob are all pronounced without the “k” sound at the beginning. In Old English, the k was not silent. Knight was pronounced “k’nite”, knob as ̶[...]

August 25th, 2009 - 12:30 am § in linguistic determinism, pinker, sapir, sapir-whorf hypothesis, whorf

Linguistic Determinism

Linguistic determinism is the idea that language shapes thought.  There have been myriad arguments for and against this claim. The main proponent of linguistic determinism was Benjamin Lee Whorf, a linguist who (like me) developed an interest in linguistics later in life. He graduated from MIT with[...]