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A.Word.A.Daywith Anu Garg
My daughter Ananya has been fitted with braces to straighten her teeth. Right now her teeth are like a bunch of teenagers slouching on a lazy summer afternoon. A couple of years of orthodontic regimen has promised to train them like soldiers at attention -- perfectly upright and ready to attack in unison any apple or pear that dares to enter the gates.
With each visit to the orthodontist, I become acutely aware of the meaning of the term ortho-. I believe it derives from Greek and means lots and lots of money.
Maybe not. But that's what it feels like. And to be fair to the orthos, it takes years of training, specialized equipment, and precision components to design a pair of braces. If only braces were like combining forms in a language. You take two (or more), click them together, and they are ready for work. No muss, no fuss!
This week we'll see five words made with the use of combining forms ortho- (straight), copro- (dung), iatro- (healer), miso- (hate), and calli- (beautiful).
[What are combining forms? You can think of them as the Legos of language. As the name indicates, a combining form is a linguistic atom that occurs only in combination with some other form. This other form could be a word, another combining form, or an affix (a prefix or suffix). Unlike a combining form, an affix can't attach to another affix to form a standalone word by itself.]
MEANING:noun: 1. The commonly accepted way of spelling words. 2. The branch of knowledge concerned with the study of spelling and representing sounds of a language by letters and diacritics.
ETYMOLOGY:Via French and Latin from Greek ortho- (correct, right, straight) + -graphy (writing).
USAGE:"The Spelling Society declared at the weekend that the apparently arbitrary and complicated orthography of the English language holds back children in acquiring writing skills, and costs the economy countless billions a year."
Philip Hensher; The Peculiarities of English Retain Its Spell; The Independent (London, UK); Jun 9, 2008.
A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:The only thing one can give an artist is leisure in which to work. To give an artist leisure is actually to take part in his creation. -Ezra Pound, poet (1885-1972)
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