Friday, 11 July 2008

A.W.A.D. - Combining Words

My daughter Ananya has been fitted with a pair of 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.]

orthography
PRONUNCIATION:(or-THOG-ruh-fee)
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).

coprolite
PRONUNCIATION:(KOP-ruh-lyte)
MEANING:noun: Fossilized excrement

ETYMOLOGY:From Greek kopro- (dung) + -lite (stone), from lithos (stone).

iatrogenic
PRONUNCIATION:(eye-at-ruh-JEN-ik)
MEANING:adjective: Caused inadvertently by medical treatment, such as an infection or a complication

ETYMOLOGY:From iatro- (healer, medicine), from Greek iatros (healer) + English -genic (producing).

misoneism
PRONUNCIATION:(mis-uh-NEE-izm)
MEANING: noun: A hatred or fear of change or innovation

ETYMOLOGY: From Italian misoneismo, from Greek miso- (hate) + neos (new). Ultimately from Indo-European root newo- (new) that also gave us new, neo-, neon, novice, novel, novelty, innovate, and renovate.

callipygian
PRONUNCIATION:(kal-uh-PIJ-ee-uhn)
MEANING: adjective: Having well-shaped buttocks

ETYMOLOGY: From Greek calli- (beautiful) + pyge (buttocks).

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