Though these days the term wordmonger refers to "a writer or speaker who uses language pretentiously or carelessly," please join me in proposing a new meaning. A fishmonger appreciates and promotes fish, therefore, a wordmonger does the same for words.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

A challenge

A challenge

Below is a list of words that all grew out of the same Proto-Indo-European root. Through considering the words, can you figure out the meaning of the root?


A little more information:

perish — 1200s — from a word meaning to be lost 
issue — 1300s — originally meant to flow out 
obituary 1706 from a word meaning pertaining to death
itinerant — 1560s — from a legal term meaning a journey
circuit — 1300s — from a word meaning a going around
transit — 1400s — from a word meaning a going over
trance — 1300s — from a word meaning coma; passing from life to death
itinerary — 1400s — from a word meaning description of a route of travel
initiation — 1580s — from a word meaning a beginning
ambition — 1300s — from a word meaning a going around (for favor)
exit  — 1530s — go out — originally a stage direction

The common root for all these modern words is the Proto-Indo-European word *ei-, which meant to go. Hmmm. Puts a new spin on ordering food to go, eh?

In the comments section I hope you’ll mention whichever word or words seems the biggest stretch for you from a root meaning to go.

My thanks go out to this week’s sources Etymonline, Collins Dictionary, Merriam Webster, Wordnik, & the OED.

Thursday, August 3, 2017



In an attempt to balance last week’s post regarding the etymologies of noisy words, here are some quotes about silence.

First, three eloquent ways of saying the same thing: 

Blessed is the man who, having nothing to say, abstains from giving us wordy evidence of that fact.
-George Eliot

In silence man can most readily preserve his integrity.
-Meister Echkart

Never miss the opportunity to keep your mouth shut.
Robert Newton Peck

And on to the darker side of silence:

In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. 
-Dr. Martin Luther King

Silence isn’t always golden, you know. Sometimes it’s just plain yellow.
-Jan Kemp

The moment we begin to fear the opinions of others & hesitate to tell the truth that is in us, & from motives of policy are silent when we should speak, the divine floods of light & life flow no longer into our souls.
-Elizabeth Cady Stanton

And last, some votes of confidence:

Silence is all the genius a fool has.
-Zora Neale Hurston

Of those who say nothing, few are silent.
-Thomas Neill

Silence is not a thing we make; it is something into which we enter. It is always there…All we can make is noise.
-Mother Maribel of Wantage

I’m hoping you’ll use the comments section to let me know which of these quotes you’ve never heard, &/or which ones made you stop & think.