It occurred to me the other day that based on their word parts, substance & understand could almost be synonyms, or might at least work in concert to tell an interesting story. Doesn’t sub- mean under? Don’t stand & stance mean pretty much the same thing?
Understand comes from the Old English word, understandan. Stand means exactly what one might expect, to stand, but under in Old English meant something other than the under we Modern English speakers know today. Instead, it meant in the midst of. So to understand something is to stand in its midst. Understand takes up a page and a half in the Oxford English Dictionary with its fourteen shades of meaning.
Substance, on the other hand, comes from the Latin substare, literally, to stand firm. Interestingly, its primary meaning now is essential nature or essence. Substance takes about two full pages in the Oxford English Dictionary, Coincidentally, it also has fourteen shades of meaning.
Understand & substance aren’t synonyms at all, but together, they certainly inspire some pondering.
To understand something’s substance, one must stand in the midst of its essence. When we really want to grasp something, isn’t that exactly what we do? Don’t we surround ourselves as much as possible with whatever it is, then stand there, & breathe it all in?
Some of the substance I’m working on understanding this year includes (but isn’t limited to):
-baking a loaf of bread with those nifty, sourdough-ish
holes in it,
holes in it,
-audiobook narration & the fascinating & non-intuitive
-improved methods of novel revision
Followers, what substance are you throwing yourself into the midst of? What essence has got your attention?