There are 8 posts.
‘Without freedom of thought’, the great American statesman Benjamin Franklin once wrote, ‘there can be no such thing as wisdom’. Profound words, these are, about some profound words: freedom and wisdom. For Franklin, it is thought that binds them together. For the English language, in this case, it’s -dom. What is this unassuming little -dom? […]more
Please note: this blog post discusses language that some readers may find offensive. Words are basically Legos: infinitely combinable parts that can make whatever word you need when composing your latest love sonnet or insane rant. The suffix -ometer is one of the most versatile building blocks, allowing for humorous measurement of anything in the […]more
‘-ee means something happens to you; -er means you do something: so employee, invitee (if you must), refugee but attender, escaper, etc, rather than attendee, escapee, etc.’ So says the Guardian style guide, and similar advice is given in many other usage guides. But is this the whole story? Attendee and escapee are now much […]more
Ask people to say words ending in ster and you might get hipster, prankster, jokester, or gangster. A handful of words formed by the addition of the suffix –ster are still in common use; with some, like spinster, the origin may no longer even be apparent, as the word no longer primarily means ‘a woman […]more
For those of you who’ve been following my occasional series about homophonous affixes (or, to put it another way, word-endings and -beginnings that sound the same when spoken!), you should now know your -ables from your -ibles and be proficient in fore- versus for- or four. There are plenty more similar-sounding affixes, though, so I thought […]more
I’ve recently noticed a trend for recipes to insist that I absolutely must use unsalted butter. Now I love the creamy taste of locally produced organic butter as much as the next person, it tastes much nicer with honey on bread than the salted sort. Nevertheless I just don’t get why, when I’ve melted my unsalted […]more
If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you may recall that we’ve featured postings on homophones over the past few months, but all of them have been complete words, such as pedal and peddle. Of course, suffixes (word endings) and prefixes (word beginnings) can also sound the same in English, causing no end of […]more