View Full Version : Calling all etymologists

Arm out the window
22nd Mar 2008, 09:29
I'm appealing to the fine collection of minds making up the PPRune community here ... was writing something today and had occasion to use the word "irresistible".

Being a fair speller, that's what popped into my mind, but then I thought, hold on, can that be right? I checked in the dictionary and so it was, but that got me thinking (dangerous, I know) - why isn't it "irresistable"?

I've got a feeling there may be a few more, like "irreversible" rather than "irreversable", but what's the logic, if any?

22nd Mar 2008, 09:35
-ible or -able. (http://www.englishclub.com/writing/spelling_ible.htm)

22nd Mar 2008, 09:36
Wass 'e on abart? This thread's got nothing to do with bugs! Yes I know that it entomology

22nd Mar 2008, 09:57
Ah, the etymology of entomology - fascinating stuff.



Arm out the window
22nd Mar 2008, 10:04
Well, ask and ye shall receive ... you lot are good, you are!

Happy Easter to all, too.:)

22nd Mar 2008, 14:44
And why is "flammable" not the opposite of "inflammable" ??

22nd Mar 2008, 16:13
-ible versus -able is all to do with yer Latin etymology, innit.

Inflammable is a different "in" from inalienable". It's the "into-in" rather than the "isn't-in".

22nd Mar 2008, 16:51
Nice one, ORAC.

Got something for -ent and -ant ?

22nd Mar 2008, 17:16
Thanks, ORAC.
One's never to old to learn.

Something similar clearly applies in French...
Accessible, compatible, terrible, etc. are spelled identically in English and in French.
And the French words ending in -able that I can think of offhand, such as incroyable, immangeable, carrossable, all have French roots, even if you get an incomlete word when dropping the -able.

22nd Mar 2008, 17:31

Aint this guy an ety...entom ...err some kinda ologist ??

22nd Mar 2008, 17:34
-ance/ent & -ence/ent (http://www.dailywritingtips.com/words-with-the-suffixes-ance-and-ence/)

...Both -ance and -ence derive ultimately from Latin endings spelled -entia and -antia.

Before the Sixteenth Century when English scholars busied themselves trying to make English spelling and grammar conform to the logic of Latin, some words that had already entered the language spelled with -ance were altered to -ence.

NOTE: The silent b came into the word debt at this time. In Middle English the word was usually spelled det or dette, rarely debte. The reforming scholars decided that since the word came from Latin debitum, it needed the b.

Sailor Vee
22nd Mar 2008, 17:35
So, do we blame the firkin eyetalliennes then?

old,not bold
22nd Mar 2008, 19:10
even if you get an incomlete word when dropping the -able.

Mind you, that's what you get if you drop even a single letter.

Unless 'incomlete' is a very advanced derivation of 'comely', meaning less than comely, in the sense that the Greeks would have used the phrase less than comely; for example Hirseus was regarded as less than comely because of his ape-like, hairy body.

I think it's time to have a drink.

23rd Mar 2008, 08:52
all have French roots

My French roots tend to get very upset when I lose one of their letters ... :uhoh:

Ascend Charlie
23rd Mar 2008, 12:31
I thought "incomlete" was an omelette without eggs. Or the chef forgot to p in it.

23rd Mar 2008, 15:01
And why is "flammable" not the opposite of "inflammable" ??That's similar to what is known as a Janus word (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Janus_word), like drawn when refering to curtains. Does it mean open or closed?


23rd Mar 2008, 15:04
also (and I nicked this from Wikipedia) ...

The word "inflammable" came from Latin inflammāre = "to set fire to", where the prefix in- means "in" as in "inside" (compare English "in flames"). But there have been instances of people thinking that this "in-" prefix means "not" as in "invisible" and "incombustible" etc, and thus wrongly thinking that "inflammable" means "cannot burn". To avoid this safety hazard, the shortened word "flammable" has come into use in recent years.

The Elements of Style ("Strunk and White")says:
Flammable. An oddity, chiefly useful in saving lives. The common word meaning "combustible" is inflammable. But some people are thrown off by the in- and think inflammable means "not combustible." For this reason, trucks carrying gasoline or explosives are now marked FLAMMABLE.

:8 :8

24th Mar 2008, 21:25
Does 'ineffable' describe someone or something you can't eff?

25th Mar 2008, 01:14
flammable versus inflammable was merely a concession to those who thought inflammable meant it wouldn't ignite.

25th Mar 2008, 01:18
Then you get into words like "skipper' and 'shipper' because one group preferred the k sound and others didn't.. or warranty and guaranty.

And then we get into the words that can mean the opposite such as 'cleave' to separate or to cling to...

25th Mar 2008, 03:39
Or raze which means just about the opposite to raise.

Arm out the window
25th Mar 2008, 03:42
And another thing ... the word 'uncomfortable'. It looks like it should mean something similar to 'inconsolable', ie. 'I tried to comfort her but she was uncomfortable.'

Or perhaps, 'I tried to eff her but she was ineffable.', or even, 'I managed to eff her, but luckily she was impregnable.'!

Does 'ineffable' describe someone or something you can't eff?

Perhaps, I'm not effing sure!