Wednesday, September 5, 2018

What’s It All Mean? A study of words finale by Toi Thomas

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 Today I end my series on words and their meanings in the English language. This series has been a study on the complexity of this language, something I find both fascinating and, at times, frustrating. Today, I’ll be discussing additions to roots (word origins) or words. See parts one, two, three, and four of this series here.

The word of the day is affix.

An affix is something that is joined or added (in rare cases taken from) something else to make something new or greatly alter the original. The most common affixes are the prefix and the suffix, but I’ll also touch on the infix (No, I didn’t make this up).

Prefixes are added to the beginning of roots or words to alter its meaning. Prime examples are ‘un’, ‘dis’, and ‘re’. Do becomes undo, like becomes dislike, and make becomes remake.

Suffixes are added to the end of roots or words. Prime examples are ‘ing’, ‘ed’, and ‘ly’. Make becomes making, do becomes doing, and like becomes likely.

The concept seems simple enough, but did you notice how I had to drop a letter to make making work. (Is your tongue tied yet?)

Before I get into more complicated prefixes and suffixes, I want to revisit the affix itself. When you’re not adding to the beginning or end, an infix allows you to insert in the middle somewhere. However, these inserts usually accompany some sort of prefix or suffix addition. My favorite example of this is the name, Thompson, and here’s why.

“Son” is a standalone word itself, but as part of the name Thompson, “son” is a suffix. Thom is not a full word on its own; it is a root, giving way to the name Thomas. So, where does the ‘p’ come in? Well, that’s the infix that makes this name possible.

Now back to those prefixes and suffixes; they can be a bit confusing. Sometimes the affixes can be difficult to spot. For example, ‘im’ added to the word proper becomes improper. So, does that mean that if you take ‘im’ away from important, you get the word portant? Nah, I don’t think so. However, if you add ‘ant’ to the end of the word import, that’s when you get the word important. Does that clear it all up?

Let’s try one more.

Let’s start with the word prize. Now add ‘sur’ to our root word and make the word surprize- oh wait... That doesn’t work in US English (not sure about UK English). If I want this word to work, I have to make a change; switch out ‘z’ for ‘s’ and now we have surprise. Now, let’s add a few suffixes. Add on ‘ing’ and ‘ly’ and we have the word surprisingly.

Okay, I’m all done. See how this language is complex and fascinating. 

I hope you’ve enjoyed this journey through the complexities of the English language.
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I’ll be back on September 19th to share some of my favorite book reviews.

If you missed the latest Loki Animal Story featuring Betty the Tortoise, be sure to check it out.

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