Offering help for writers and language learners, this series of posts is a resource for all word lovers.
This week’s words: Weather, absolutely essential, Sesquipedalianism, Natsukashii
‘Weather’ belongs to an odd category of words known as contronyms. A contronym is a word that is its own antonym; a word that has two opposing meanings! This one can mean to endure or to be worn away.
Weather – Roget’s thesaurus lists these alternative words: storm, navigate, pulverise, weather, wind, colour, deteriorate, and mature. Under the sub-heading ‘deteriorate’ are a further 96 replacements including worsen, decline, degenerate, disintegrate, wear out, crumble, fester, and go from bad to worse.
Let’s look at usage for weather(ed):
‘There’s confusion over the difference between weather and climate in the debate about global warming. Weather is a phenomenon occurring in a particular place at a particular time. Climate, however, is the pattern of weather expected in any given region.’
‘George wondered if Sara would weather the storm or be defeated by the strength of the wind and waves.’
‘Sara looked out of the porthole and wondered when the weather would calm.’
‘Granite and marble headstones generally weather better than those made of sandstone.’
‘In spite of his life on the farm, Felix had weathered better than Bernard, who had spent most of his time indoors.’
Redundancies are words that serve no semantic purpose. In speech, they act as spacers, giving the speaker time to think. But in writing, except when representing natural conversation, they impede the reader’s progress.
This week’s example: ‘absolutely essential’
‘Essential’ means ‘required, necessary, indispensable. Something can be either essential or dispensable. The qualifier, ‘absolutely’ is therefore unnecessary. It adds nothing to the meaning and slows the pace of the sentence.
‘Verity had been told by her boss that she was absolutely essential to the project.’ Whilst this may please Verity, the simpler sentence would say exactly the same thing: ‘Verity had been told by her boss that she was essential to the project.’
There’s a slight tendency for the less educated to believe that using long words will make them appear more intelligent. However, such usage often exposes misunderstanding and rarely makes a message clearer.
Sesquipedalianism: the tendency to use long words, especially for effect. To be avoided.
Untranslatable words that express emotions. The world’s languages contain numerous words for emotions (and other things) for which English has no equivalent. I suspect most people are familiar with ‘schadenfreude’, from German, and ‘frisson’, from French, but there are many more, and I’ll introduce some here from time to time.
Natsukashii (Japanese) – A nostalgic yearning for the past, with happiness about the warm memory, but sadness that the past no longer exists.
Language learners will find a great group page on Facebook.
I welcome observations and suggestions here. Please use the comments section below for your ideas and thoughts.