Contain #Anglish #PlainEnglish

December 5, 2020

English has the Latinate word contain. What does contain actually mean? Spanish, a Latin language, also has this verb, contener, yet in Spanish the meaning is self-clear: con “with” + tener “have/hold”. Literally, “with-have” or “with-hold” (although note that “withhold” has quite a different meaning in English).

How do Germanic languages form a word for “contain”? Well, Swedish has inhåller, lit. “in-hold”. Dutch has inhouden, lit. “in-hold”. And German has… enthalten, which means… you get the point.

It’s looking like “inhold” (with the preposition used as a prefix, like “behold”) or “hold in” (with the preposition separate from the word, like “look up”) are the best options.

This glass inholds/holds half a pint in.

Sounds pretty good to me. As does “withinhold” or “hold within”, which perhaps makes the meaning more explicit.

This bucket withinholds/holds a gallon within.

Although, the simpler “hold” and “have” or “can hold/have” would often work better.

This bucket can have/can hold a gallon.

Derived words are easily formed, such as inholder and inholding. Not to forget other words we could use instead, such as “holder” or “box”.

In any case, with the words have and hold, and the Germanic formations inhold and hold in (and/or withinhold and hold within), I think we can do without the Latinish “contain”.

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Full- #Anglish #PlainEnglish

November 4, 2020

English is so full of it! The word “full”, that is. “Full” is the 513th most common word in the English language. And considering there are over a million words, that’s not bad going.

English likes the word so much that it has been co-opted as a common suffix: –ful.

But did you know that English can use “full” as a kind of sham-prefix, the first element of a compound. Essentially, it produces verbs and adjectives with the same kind of meaning as the self-standing word “full” and the suffix “-ful”, that is, ‘full of, having, or characterised by X’.

Sadly, we haven’t used it productively for a long time. It’s hard to see why, though, given the allwhereness of “full” and “-ful”. Here are some examples from Old and Middle English.

  • OE fulbrecan ‘to violate’ (full + breach/break, that is, to fully breach/break)
  • OE fulslean ‘to kill outright’ (full + slay)
  • OE fulripod ‘mature’ (full + ripened)
  • ME ful-comen ‘attain (a state), realise (a truth)’ (full + come)
  • ME ful-lasting ‘durability’ (full + lasting)
  • ME ful-thriven ‘complete, perfect’ (full + thriven)

Not all of these formations make much sense in Modern English, but it’s easy to see the power of this kind-of prefix use of “full” and how it could greatly widen and deepen the English wordstock.

Funnily enough, I have ingested one too many tomes of poetry over the years, and have long since been using full-, totally unthinkingly, for years and years. Perhaps I have already been spreading the seed of this affix.

Here are some put-forward words. Add your own!

fullbreach: to violate
fullripe: mature (note that “ripe” mostly fits well for “mature”, although there are cases where “mature” means almost-but-not-quite overripe, and in this sense especially, it seems “fullripe” is a useful word)
full-lasting: lasting the needed length. This is different to longlasting which basically means “durable”.
full-done: completed (successfully)

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

References:
https://www.etymonline.com/search?q=-ful
Davies, M. & Gardner, D. (2011) A Frequency Dictionary of Contemporary American English. Routldge, p. 35


Something Fishy #Anglish #PlainEnglish

October 13, 2020

Why say suspicious when you can say fishy? It’s a much more evocative word! This sense of fishy seems to come from the notion of slipperiness.

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Adumbrate #PlainEnglish #Anglish

October 7, 2020

Andrew Neil is a wonderful journalist and interviewer, but what is not wonderful was the use of the word “adumbrate” which he used on the 25th of September 2020. What does “adumbrate” mean? It’s from the Latin adumbrat- meaning “shaded, shadowed”. It has three meanings in English: to overshadow, to foreshadow, and to outline. What is wrong with these fine Saxon words? Nothing. Let’s bin off this Latin monster and use our plain English instead.

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry


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