eradicate (ə̇ˈradəˌkāt) vs. irradicate (ə̇ˈradə̇ˌkāt)

Hello everyone! To continue our homonym theme, let’s take a look at this confusing pair of homophones – eradicate and irradicate. You may remember from an earlier post that homophones are words that sound the same, but are spelled differently.

Both eradicate and irradicate come from the Latin word radix, which means root. However, these words have opposite meanings due to their prefixes. Eradicate contains the Latin prefix e- which means out of, giving rise to its meaning “to uproot” or “root out”. One could use the word “eradicate” in terms of a cure for a disease (the disease was completely eradicated).

Irradicate on the other hand means to root deeply within. It refers to something that cannot be “rooted out” or “destroyed.” This word has gone through assimilation, the process by which the final letter of the prefix is dropped, and the first letter of the root is doubled. In this case, the prefix “in” (meaning in or within), has changed to ir-radicate. Even though assimilation has occurred, the meaning of the original prefix remains. Assimilation often occurs with words derived from Latin in which a prefix is linked to a root. 

I hope you enjoyed reading about this interesting pair of words!

 

 

 

 

One of my favorite things to eat is pasta. I could eat fettuccine, linguine, penne and farfalle every day and not ever get tired of it!

Stewart Edelstein, the author of Dubious Doublets: A Delightful Compendium of Unlikely Word Pairs of Common Origin, from Aardvark/Porcelain to Zodiac/Whiskey has created a fun pasta quiz on Merriam-Webster online. As you take the quiz, you’ll notice that the origins of many of the Italian words for the various pastas derive from Latin. This is because Italian is a Romance language. Other Romance languages include Spanish, French, and Portuguese. Romance languages come from Vulgar Latin (vulgus is a Latin noun that means “common people” or “general public”), a form of Latin that was spoken by commoners in Rome during the 2nd – 4th centuries.

Take the quiz and be sure to let me know how you did!

 

Bluegrass Literacy Project

Hello everyone! I haven’t posted in a while and I wanted to give you all an update.

Last fall, I submitted a project proposal to the Davidson Institute for Talent Development to be a part of their Young Scholars Ambassador Program (YSAP). This program “fosters civic engagement through community service, volunteerism and leadership” (from the Davidson Institute website).

In December, I found out that I had been accepted into the Class of 2019 Young Scholar Ambassadors. For the next 18 months, I will be working to develop and implement my project, which I’ve named the Bluegrass Literacy Project. Through my project, I hope to continue to share my love of words and make a positive and lasting impact in my community. You can read more about my project here.

I’m really excited about this opportunity, but unfortunately it also means that I may not be posting as much as I would like on this blog. However, I will do my best to continue posting interesting words as time permits. Thank you all for your support and encouragement!

 

 

Name That Animal: Challenge #7 (Halloween Edition)

If you see this creature on Halloween, beware, it is deadly. (image via www.topito.com)

I say goodbye to my friends after a successful night of trick-or-treating. I am suddenly aware of how long I’ve been out and look for short cut home. The crescent moon shines weakly as I see a familiar-looking alley way that I immediately turn into. My boots click on the uneven, old, brick pathway. The night is eerily silent and acherontic, save the wind howling around me. It feels as if the temperature has plummeted sharply and I shiver. I start walking faster and feel a sense of relief when I reach the warm safety of home.

As I reach for the doorknob, I feel a burning sensation pierce the back of my hand. A  mephitic odor diffuses through the stygian darkness. I look down and see a spider – no,  not a spider, but a terrifying spider-like creature quickly skittering away. I hastily snatch up my phone and with trembling hands, manage to capture an image of this crazy creature.

For the next several hours, I feel odd and queasy. I wake up in the middle of the night with a splitting headache and decide that I need to go to the emergency room. As I get ready, I walk past my window and something draws my attention. I gaze at the reflection, and I see two bright yellow eyes peering back at me.

I am admitted to the hospital with an unknown condition, most likely caused by the bite of the bizarre creature. I try to tell the doctors that the culprit looks like a cross between a strigiform and an araneiform, but they simply stare at me quizzically, and blame the bite for my deluded state. Help me name the heinous creature that has cursed me.

Greek:

arachno-                                             spider

-pod-                                                    foot

xantho-                                               yellow

brunne-                                              brown

-morph-                                             shape, form

dasy-                                                   shaggy, woolly

octo-                                                    eight

-soma, somato-                                 body

-ops, opto-                                          eye

nyct-                                                    night

-haema, haemato-                            blood

Latin:

=strix                                                owl

strigi-                                                owl

-iform                                               in the shape of

fasciat-                                             banded

vittat-                                               striped

flav-                                                  yellow

hirsut-                                              hairy

aranei-                                             spider

oculi-, -oculus                                 eye

noct-, nocti-                                    night

sanguini-                                         blood

 

If you haven’t already done so, be sure to check out  Name That Animal Challenge #1, Name That Animal Challenge #2, Name That Animal Challenge #3, Name That Animal Challenge #4Name That Animal Challenge #5, and Name That Animal Challenge #6.

 

 

 

discreet (də̇ˈskrēt) vs. discrete (dəˈskrēt)

 

This is a guest post by Aisha R. from California who participated in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in 2016 and 2017.

Hi everyone! My name is Aisha and I am a 12 year old 7th grader. When Tara announced that she was doing a homonym theme on her blog, I was quick to volunteer to write a guest post.

An interesting pair of homonyms that I found are discrete (detached or separate) and discreet (prudent, modest, or unobtrusive). Both words come from the Latin verb discernere which means to separate or to distinguish. Unfortunately, the shared etymology makes these words difficult to differentiate.

A good way to remember the definition for the word discrete is that the two e’s in the word are separated by the t. Here is a picture to help you remember this trick.

discrete memory trick

Thank you Aisha, for taking the time to share this pair of homophones with us and your trick to remembering how to spell discrete. It is  interesting to note that the word “discern” (to recognize or identify as separate or distinct) also comes from the Latin verb discernere.

 

 

complacent (kəm-plā-sənt) vs. complaisant (kəm-plā-sənt)

 

Let’s kick off our homonym theme with a pare pair of adjectives that I find to be particularly tricky. The words complacent and complaisant are homophones as well as heterographs. As you may recall, homophones are words that sound the same, but are defined differently, while heterographs have the same pronunciation but different spellings and meanings.

Both words are derived from the Latin infinitive complacere meaning to please. Complaisant means “a desire to please,” whereas complacent means “pleased with one’s self” or “self-satisfied,” and usually has a negative connotation. To make it more confusing, one of the definitions of complacent IS complaisant! However, if you use the word complacent to mean “willingness to please or oblige others”, linguists will probably label it incorrect.

Stay tuned for another tricky homonym pear pair soon!

 

 

 

homonyms (hä-mə-nims)

homonymsThe English language is full of homonyms, or more specifically homographs, homophones, heterographs, and heteronyms. This is enough to make your head spin! Such words serve to make English one of the most difficult languages to learn. They are the bane of my existence, and probably yours too.

Homonyms are words that are pronounced the same or have the same spelling but have different definitions. The word homonym comes from the Greek roots homo- meaning same and -nym meaning name.  Homographs and homophones are a subset of homonyms.

Homographs are words that have the same spelling, but have different meanings. The Greek root -graph- means to write, so homograph can be translated into “same writing.” An example would be “bat” (animal) and “bat” (baseball bat).

Heteronyms are a class of homographs. The Greek root hetero- means other or different so heteronyms are words  with “different names.” They share the same spelling, but have different pronunciations and meanings. An example is “minute” (time unit) and “minute” (pronounced mīn.yüt – meaning very small).

Homophones are words that sound the same but are defined differently. Homophones literally mean “same sound” (-phon is the Greek root for sound). If the homophones are spelled the same, they are also homographs but if they are spelled differently, they are called heterographs.

Heterographs are words that have “different writing”. They have the same pronunciation, but different spellings and definitions. “Knight” (soldier) and “night” (evening) are examples of heterographs.

For the next several posts, I’d like to delve further into this category of English words. To help me explore this topic, I’ve enlisted the help of some of my fellow National Spelling Bee participants who have volunteered to write about a pair of words that they find to be particularly irksome.

Are there any homonyms that always manage to trick you?