Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Monday, September 12, 2011
I was taught that if you are pestering me you are irritating me, that if you admitted to aggravating me you were using the term incorrectly.
The linguist Robert Beard has irritated me on this. Or aggravated me. Whatever.
aggravate / æ-grê-vayt / verb
1. To make heavy or heavier, to load, burden, as to be aggravated with the responsibilities of someone else's office.Here's where Beard gets annoying: I recall being told in grammar school (as we called it then) that aggravate can only mean "make worse" and not simply "annoy," as in "This zipper aggravates me when it sticks like this." My teachers didn't know, however, that the word had borne both meanings since the 17th century and, moreover, the original Latin verb, aggravare, could be used in both senses as well. So feel as free to say that the sticking zipper aggravates you to no end as you would to say, "Jerking it like that when it sticks only aggravates (makes worse) the problem."
2. To increase the gravity of, to make worse, exacerbate.
3. To annoy.
History: Aggravate is taken from the past participle (aggravatus) of the Latin verb aggravare "to make heavier or worse." This verb is made up of ad "to" + gravare "to burden", based on the root gravis "heavy". We see this stem in many English words borrowed from Latin, such as grave "serious" and gravity. This word also devolved into Old French grever "to harm", which English borrowed as grieve which also gave us grief. The Proto-Indo-European root that gave rise to gravis also went on to become guru "heavy, serious, venerable" in Sanskrit, the ancestor language of Hindi, whence English borrowed the word when India was a colony.
Good grief, you can see why this guru is irritated.
Posted by Terry Kirkpatrick at 8:38 AM
Sunday, September 4, 2011
"He writes the worst English that I have ever encountered.It reminds me of a string of wet sponges; it reminds me of tattered washing on the line; it reminds me of stale bean soup, of dogs barking through endless nights.It is so bad that a sort of grandeur creeps into it.It drags itself out of the dark abyss of pish and crawls insanely up the topmost pinnacle of posh. It is flap and doodle.It is balder and dash."
-- H.L. Mencken, on Warren G.Harding
Posted by Terry Kirkpatrick at 5:50 AM