I don’t want to make anyone sick with this video (lest you dislike him), but in it, the Prime Minister Boris Johnson does some political shtick. But as part of that, he uses the Anglish word heartsick instead of the Latinate extremely depressed. What a great word.
In America they have this thing called “Arbor Day”. It’s where they celebrate the wonder that is the tree. I love trees and celebrate them every day, a big part of my daily walks are just taking in and appreciating the trees. Not sure why we need to wait for the special day. Anyway, they call it “Arbor Day” because “arbor” is Latin for “tree”. But my thought has always been, “why not just call it ‘Tree Day’?”
Speaking of which, we have this word in English “arboretum“. I’ve never understood this word. I mean, the point of it, that is. It’s a “tree yard”, right, so let’s call it a treeyard, because that is what it is.
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 holdin (and/or withinhold and holdwithin), I think we can do without the Latinish “contain”.
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)
The early Modern English of the King James Bible, the traditional Bible in English-speaking countries, is rather different to today’s English. See Matthew 6:1-2 below in the King James version.
Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
Now take a look at the same verses in the modern New International text.
‘Be careful not to practise your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. ‘So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honoured by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.
Sometimes, the older version has homeborn words (do alms) whereas the modern version has borrowed words (practise your righteousness). And other times, it’s the newer version which uses homeborn words and the older that borrows (Verily but Truly).
None-the-less, the King James version of the Bible, still so familiar to us despite de-Christianisation and “modernisation”, gives us many homeborn words to stand in stead of the borrowings; the main upside is that even though many of these older words are no longer (commonly) used, they stay well-known owing to their use in the Bible. These words are, as I put it, “buttressed” by their familiarity as part of scripture. Here are some other homeborn words from the same passage that you may wish to swap into your English, thanks to the Bible.
Swap in: take heed for pay attention; do alms forpractise charity; blow/sound your trumpet for announce it loudly; have or get for receive.
What other passages from the Bible can you find where the older text gives us words of English birth?
The words “size”, “temperature”, “altitude”, and “age” are all borrowed words: Old French sise (1300ad), Latin temperatura (1670), Latin altitudinem (1300s), and Old French aage (1200s). Why should words for such basic concepts be borrowed? This is particularly the case when we have words such as “length”, “height”, and “depth” derived from the adjectives “long”, “high”, and “deep”. Why shouldn’t adjectives such as “big”, “hot”, “high/tall”, and “old” give rise to analogous derived abstract nouns?
Note that we talk about “length”, derived as it is from “long”, even for short things. Likewise, we have: “height” from “high”, even for short things; “depth” from “deep”, even for shallow things; and “width” and “breadth” from “wide” and “broad”, even for narrow things. Further note that the biggest or positive polarity is taken as the default, just as elsewhere in the language; there is “happy”, “sad”, and “unhappy”, but “unsad” is marked and odd-sounding.
Therefore, as weird or comical as these may sound at first, I think the following are the logical and sensible Saxon English alternatives to their Franco-Latinate counterparts:
“size” becomes “bigness”
“temperature” becomes “heat” or “hotness”
“altitude” becomes “highness”
“age” becomes “oldth” or “oldness” (I feel that “oldth” is just about passable, despite -th no longer being productive, whereas “bigth” and “heath” don’t work for me on an intuitive level, and “heighth” is an informal, dialectal, and humorous form of “height”)
I feel that “altitude” is different enough from “height” that we can’t always use the latter instead; “what’s the altitude of this plane” seems to work, but swapping in “height” seems not to. But as so often is the case, the Latinate word is used where the plainer, Saxon word could be: “What altitude are we flying at?” can be perfectly well said as “how high are we flying?” My proposal of “highness”, just like “bigness”, “heat/hotness”, and “oldth/oldness”, should only be used where the more basic word is inappropriate.
Quick Comment: AddictingAugust 28, 2022
Every time I hear the Americanism “addicting”, I am at first momentarily baffled, and then physically sickened. Just say “addictive”!
But let’s set aside our nationalist preferences. We don’t say “sportive” but “sporting/sporty”, so why wouldn’t we say the plainer, albeit not totally Saxon, “addicting”?
© 2022 Bryan A. J. Parry
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