or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


Yesterday I wrote about Latin "battuere", and afterwards it occurred to me that I had forgotten to mention a strange thing: though "battuere" means "to beat", the word "beat" itself, somewhat surprisingly, came from a different place.

"Beat", in all its senses in English, comes from Indo-European "bhau-", "to beat or strike". From this source through the Germanic languages we get "buttress" and the verb "butt", "to strike with one's head". (The other sense of "butt", the one which is related to "buttock", is from a different source, which also gave us "abut".) Also from "bhau-": "rebut", to strike back at someone in a debate.

Something else I forgot to mention: the prefix "a-" in "abate" acts as a sort of intensifier (a role often taken in English by "re-" or "e-". Apparently it's something called a "point-action prefix" (see the third definition on that page), but I couldn't find any more about such a thing, so I guess we will have to take Dictionary.com's word for it. Just calling it an intensifier works for me.


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