Harvest Time

This year, my garden has produced a good number of herbs and vegetables for my family, but even more for the squirrels!  The word Harvest comes from an Old English word, hærvest, meaning “autumn.” The Proto-Indo-European root the word derives from is *kerp– “to gather, to pluck.”

Here is a collection of my fruit and vegetable etymology memes. Enjoy!

Resources Used:

Etymonline.com

Word Origins, by John Ayto

The Diner’s Dictionary, by John Ayto

Magicking Words

My 8th grade student “Luna”* is obsessed with all things fantasy and so when I asked her what words she would like to investigate, the word magic was on the list.

We discussed what magic was and looked it up in the dictionary. We discovered that the word can be used as a noun, a verb, or an adjective. Luna worked to make a sentence of each type.

We brainstormed similar words and decided the base was probably <mage>. We began mapping out our thinking on the table top whiteboard in my office.

We used Word Searcher to find words that contained the same base, and ruled out words that, although seemed possibly promising, turned out to not be etymologically related. These words were image, imagination, and magistrate– along with their derivatives.

As you can see, the final, single, silent, non-syllabic <e> is replaced by a vowel suffix. This is shown with the red slash on the final <e>. In order to keep the /k/ sound when a vowel suffix is added, a <k> is added sometimes. We learned that at one time, long ago, the -<ic> ending was spelled <ick> and sometimes when someone wants the word magic to look more–well, magickal–it might be spelled with the old spelling.

Next we used the Mini-matrix Maker to make a matrix.

We explored the etymology of the word magic.

We also considered the pronunciation of the words and how unexpected changes happen in different related words.

mage /māj/

  • Long <a> because of single, silent, non-syllabic <e>
  • Soft g because it is followed by an <e>

magic /măj’-ĭk/

  • Soft <g> because it is followed by an <e>
  • Hard c because it has no vowel after and <-ic> at the end of a word is poronounced /ĭk/

magician /mə-jĭ’-shən/

  • First and third vowel sounds are schwas and middle syllable has stress.
  • Soft <g> because it is followed by an <e>
  • <c> has /sh/ sound when followed by <ian>

magicians /mə’-jĭ-shənz/

  • First and third vowel sounds are schwas and middle syllable has stress.
  • Soft <g> because it is followed by an <e>
  • <c> has /sh/ sound when followed by <ian>
  • Final <s> represents a /z/ sound.

Luna made the observation that in the Harry Potter universe “nomag” is American slang for non-magical people, the equivalent to “muggle” in the U.K. A fitting observation for this exploration.

Further discussion and investigation into the grammar of the words gave us this information. Luna made sentences to help her remember.

  • mage: noun “someone who performs magic”
  • magic: noun, verb, or adjective
  • magics: plural noun or third person inflectional ending (“She magics the moonbeans.”)
  • magical: adjective
  • magician: “Someone who performs magic”
  • magicked: past tense verb or adjective (“The magicked beans grew a bean-stock.”)
  • magically: adverb
  • magicians: plural of magician
  • magicking: present verb (“He is magicking the stones to turn them into bread.”) or noun (“She is an expert at magicking.”)
  • magic wand: a stick used to perform magic

While looking at the dictionary, we also noticed the link to the thesaurus and explored synonyms and antonyms.

Luna and I both agreed that being bewitching and charming was much more fun than being normal and unremarkable. Next up, Luna wants to investigate sorceress.

*Student names and details have been changed.

If you have a Garden and a Library, you have Everything you Need.

Two of my favorite things are teaching literacy and gardening and I get super excited when I can combine the two. I began making flower etymology memes just for fun when I ran onto a fun meaning in the course of researching for one of my tutoring sessions in response to a student question. The memes were a hit with my friends and colleagues, and I was having so much fun making them, that I took requests and continued creating them.

I love that pansy means “thought, remembrance” and that lilaceous is a real word. Here is part two of the results of my research. Enjoy!

Flour Power

As I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve been spending a lot of time in my garden this year. I’ve also been spending a lot of time researching the etymology of flower names. This question is the one that started my explorations.

I often ask students to think about words that they find confusing or hard to spell to base our lessons on.  A few weeks ago, Flora* asked me why flower and flour sounded the same but had different spellings. Our investigation led to many exciting discoveries.

Homophones often have different spellings because it helps us to differentiate the meaning of the word when we are reading. I teach this as a feature of the English language and not as a flaw. A bit of searching on etymonline.com showed us that the words flower and flour are related and in fact come from the exact same word.

Both words appear to come from the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) root, *bhel meaning “to thrive, bloom, which is possibly a variant of PIE root *bhel meaning “to blow, swell.”

The word came into English around 1200 CE by way of the Latin word florem (nominative flos) which became the Old French word flor. The English word came into use circa 1200. Alternately spelled as flur, flor, floer, floyer, and flowre.

The word meaning “finer portion of ground grain” was also spelled as flower, until circa 1830, when flour became the accepted spelling in order to end confusion. Perhaps it referred to the “finest of fairest part of the plant”

The words flower and flour can both be used as a noun or as a verb.

The flowers (n.) in the field will flower (v.) all summer long.

She will flour (v.) the surface of the table with the flour (n.).

The word flower can also carry the meaning of “time of blossoming” and “innocence”or “virginity.”

The word flourish with the sense of “thrive” is from mid-14th century English and the verb meaning to brandish a weapon is from the late 14th century.

The related base <flor> which has the sense of “having to do with flowers” gives us words such as floral, florist, and florid.

I noted with amusement that cornflower and cornflour are both compound words.

The related words:

gave me difficulty; is the base <fol> or <foli>? I looked for evidence to support my hypothesis that the base is <fol> as in <fol + i + age>. I still felt unsure, so went to my word study group for opinions. My friend Mary Beth Stevens wrote this reply to my query:

“In the OED, I found an obsolete spelling of this base as <foil>. That made me think that the <i> was part of the base. But then I also found a number if words using this base, such as foliose, foliature, foliar, and folic. It is <folic> that made me pause! Like all the others it came from Latin “folium” with a denotation of “leaf.” We can question whether or not the <i> is a connecting vowel in <foliage> and the first three I mentioned, but in <folic> it becomes pretty clear that we have an <ic> suffix. That means that the base is <fol> by itself. According to Etymonline, the word <folic> (as in folic acid) was coined in 1941 because of its abundance in green leaves. It’s a very modern coining, so if anyone has evidence that this was borrowed incorrectly, I would be interested in hearing it. Until then, the evidence points to <fole + I + age>”

Another poster wondered about whether there was a single, silent, non-syllabic <e> on the base since otherwise, the l would double.

Then Erin Pizzo weighed in with this post:

“Taken from etymonline:

Foliage (n.)

mi-15c., “representation of leaves or branches” (as an ornamental design), from Middle French feullage from French feuille “leaf, foliage” from PIE root *bhel- (3) “to thrive, to bloom”) The form has altered 17 c. by the influence of Latin folium or its derivatives in English.

This is the evolution I was talking about. Not every word in English is a clear derivative of Latin and there are times when there are “alterations.” Also not looking at having a double <ii> in this sort as well? Folio + ic is perhaps an incorrect word sum because folio and folio are different declensions of the same stem. Looking at Etymonline, I would follow the ablative form, which is folium. Which may be why D. Harper of Etymonline gives the hyperlink for folio in the folic entry.”

I really enjoyed this exchange, and after sitting on this post, feeling like I didn’t have enough understanding to continue, I decided to leave this investigation for another day. I tend toward perfectionism and knew that if I waited to be sure of my thinking, this post would never be made.  I clearly need to recidivize Michel Rameau Spellinar Latin I for Orthographers, which is always a pleasure to do. As Michel often quotes:

“You can never step in the same river twice.” (Heraclitus)

In my own poking around for understanding, I came upon this in the pronunciation guide in Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary:

“Oddly enough, foliage traces back to Middle French foille (“leaf”), which is also the source of the English word foil (as in “aluminum foil”). When adopted by Middle English speakers, foil originally meant “leaf.” “

This gives me another list of related words:

Student (and teacher) questions lead to more and more questions. I hope you have enjoyed my dive down the rabbit hole of word investigation!

*student names and details have been changed.

Resources used:

Wordsearcher http://www.neilramsden.co.uk/spelling/searcher/

Etymonline Dictionary https://www.etymonline.com

Merriam-Webster Dictionary https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/foliage

Matrices made with  http://www.neilramsden.co.uk/spelling/matrix/temp/index.html

A Rose by any other Name

I moved last year and this is the first year for a really good garden, so I have had flowers on my brain. I started playing around in canva.com and started creating flower etymology memes and sharing them. They are a bit addicting and others tell me they look forward to them each day. So here is my collection so far. Lily has two versions, because I just couldn’t choose my favorite! Enjoy them and the beauty of summer.

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