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Apr 13, 2020
This week’s theme
Words formed by clipping

This week’s words
rad
phiz
pleb
divvy
phenom

Previous week’s theme
Eponyms
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A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

What if I told you that the word mob is a trimmed form of the word mobile (from Latin mobile vulgus: fickle crowd)? That van is a sheared-off part of caravan, bus of omnibus, and wig of periwig?

Linguists call it clipping. It works both ways: you can clip the front part or the rear. Taxi is short for taxicab, which is short for taximeter cab, and cab is short for cabriolet, which is French for a goat’s leap, from cabrioler (to leap in the air). If you think your taxi ride is bumpy now, try to imagine how it was back then.

Sometimes clipped forms are respelled, for example, bae (short for baby/babe, a term of endearment).

This week we’ll see five terms formed by the process of clipping. If these clipped forms bother you, don’t let them. You use such words all the time: ad, bra, auto, bike, lab, and so on. If your objection is that these clippings are newfangled teen talk, well, each of this week’s words, in its clipped form, has been around since at least the 1800s.

rad

PRONUNCIATION:
(rad)

MEANING:
noun: One who advocates fundamental or far-reaching change or reform.
adjective: Extraordinary; wonderful; fashionable; hip; cool.

ETYMOLOGY:
From shortening of radical, from Latin radix (root). Ultimately from the Indo-European root wrad- (branch, root), which also gave us radish, root, rutabaga, eradicate, and ramify. Earliest documented use: 1820 for noun, 1976 for adjective.

USAGE:
“‘Are you sure you want to get mixed up with these rads?’
‘These rads probably have the right idea.’ She unlocked her bike. ‘Our water is very important. People don’t seem to realize we can’t live without clean water.’”
Joyce and Jim Lavene; Perfect Poison; Penguin; 2008.

“‘Steep’: Extreme skiers hurl themselves down precipices and discuss how totally rad their sport is.”
Phelim O’Neill; DVD Releases; The Guardian (London, UK); Dec 20, 2008.

See more usage examples of rad in Vocabulary.com’s dictionary.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
Go to where the silence is and say something. -Amy Goodman, investigative journalist, columnist and author (b. 13 Apr 1957)

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