Category Archives: Word Formation

More Linguistic Asymmetries


The English prefix un- comes directly from Old English (and shares a common Indo-European root with Latin in- and Greek a-) Prefixed to an adjective A, the resulting new word means ‘not A’ and can convey either positive or negative … Continue reading

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We’re All Verbs Now


Maybe, maybe not. Are there any English speakers today who don’t accept text as a verb? It was an easy move to permit text as a verb, follownig the paradigm of other communication channel noun-verb pairs in English — the … Continue reading

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Linguistic Asymmetries


Have you ever noticed that, while some words which take a prefix seem to form nice pairings with opposite meaning polarity (tie/untie, compliance/noncompliance, tasteful/distasteful), other pairs don’t work this way? For example, there is nonplussed, but not plussed, insipid, but … Continue reading

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Gates


The word gate is a good old English word, the form being geat in Old English (plural geatu) and whose meaning was ‘an opening or entrance’.  A watergate (from the 15th century) is a channel for water; the first element … Continue reading

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What’s in a Name’s Ending?


Have you ever wondered why we say Californian and Bostonian, but then say New Yorker, Londoner and Midwesterner? A friend recently used the term Kendallites to refer to habitues of Kendall Square, Cambridge MA. I understood perfectly what he meant … Continue reading

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Freewheeling Expression


Do printed dictionaries still matter? I doubt most people use them much nowadays to check spellings — spellcheckers are nearly ubiquitous in word-processing software of all types. There are also myriad sources for usage examples, including many online resources that … Continue reading

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Sportaholics and Sexavores


Just back from travels, so a short post today. There is a nice case of a newly productive suffix in English worth noting: –vore.  In the past there was a limited set that includes the well-known carnivore, herbivore, omnivore.  Recently … Continue reading

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