or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Friday, December 22, 2006

Prickly Parings

It's Christmas and I've been working like an Israelite slave to get everyone's jobs done before the 24th (and succeeding, too). So, as you can imagine, I haven't had much time to read, or even to think about stuff to write. Plus, I cut a little piece out of one of the important typing fingers yesterday--a run-in with a device called a trim knife (rightmost column, second from the top)--so typing is kind of a chore. You can probably expect postings to be spotty for the next week or so, what with the holiday season and all.

I was reading a Salon.com article about the foul, weaselly Newt Gingrich when I came across the word "compunction" and tried to sort it out. It seems fairly straightforward: "com-" means "together", usually, and sometimes has the effect of intensifying a root word, and since "Punkt" is German for "point" (and we also have "puncture" in English), "-punct-" seemed to refer to something pointed. But I guess my brain wasn't functioning fully, because I couldn't figure out how this related to "compunction", which is to say "remorse".

I should have gone a little deeper, as it turns out, because it's really pretty obvious. "Compunction" is from Latin "pungere", "to prick", and "compunction" is the pricking of your conscience.

Lots of other words come from "pungere", and they all, naturally enough, carry some sense of pricking or pointing, including "punctuation" (adding points and other little marks to writing), "pungent" (pricking the nose), and "poignant" (pricking the heart), not to mention "expunge" (literally, to mark for deletion) and "punctual" (right on the dot--of the clock's face).


Blogger Frank said...

Just wanted to wish you a Merry Christmas, Pyramus!

Sunday, December 24, 2006 3:14:00 AM  

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