Here’s a good word-swap for you. The word obedient has the Saxon alternative hearsome — which makes a lot of sense when you think about it. Therefore, the word obedience can be got rid of in favour of hearsomeness. But would could the equivalent for obey be? Do what I say? Hear-do? What do you think it could be?
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 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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