As always, the
editor is keen for regular contributors to tidy up all their loose ends.
Me he has asked to handle some backlogged bits and pieces that arise, in
Bikwil’s typically digressive way, not from earlier Pink
Shell-like efforts, but from the first Where Three Ways Meet
column (No. 6, March 1998).
‘Ere we go,
‘ere we go . . .
football, I suppose you knew that the word “soccer”, in the 1880s
and 90s spelt socca or socker, derives from Assoc.,
short for Association, as in Association Rules? OED2
implies that it’s a little like “rugger”, from Rugby School.
There’s even “footer” too, though this was confined to the England
of Brideshead Revisited and decades prior. Australian English, of
course, has “footy“.)
thing you will recall is that — except for Frisco cable cars and ducks
quacking and reversed Microsoft icons — the Three Ways in
question was a potpourri of word trivia, one fragment of which concerned
the two antonymous meanings of the verb “cleave” — adhere
and separate. Rashly, we stated that “cleave” is the only
such contrary word in English.
Well, in the
true spirit of “shared pleasure in the seriousness of the apparently
trivial miscellaneous”, Bruce Johnson has written in with a few
additional examples of words “that pull in opposite directions”. I
— both to conceal (“secreted about his person”, in this
senses related to “secret” and “secretary”), and to disclose
(as in “secreting a fluid”)
— to be of rank implies an exalted position, but, as in “my offence
is rank”, implies a degraded status
next one is cheating with typography:
— implying separation, and a part, implying union.
Bruce’s reference to “secretary”. I’d forgotten its original
meaning, now obsolete, of “one who is entrusted with private or secret
matters”. That meaning, deriving from the mediaeval Latin secretarius,
goes back at least to the 14th century. That noun came from
post-Augustan Latin adjective secretus, which meant “separated,
out of the way, lonely, secret”, and which, in its turn, derived from
the Classical Latin verb secernere (= “to sever, sunder,
at it, let’s quickly look at the two “cleaves”.
In Old English
there were two similar looking, but quite distinct, verbs — clíofan
(= “to cut”) and clífan, later clifian (= “to
adhere”). By about 1500 the former had become cleve, while the
latter, also in the 14th century, had become clive. This “. . .
had also the variants cleove, cleve, the latter of which
at length prevailed; the two verbs having thus become identical in the
present stem were naturally confused in their other inflexions.” (OED2)
academic, I know, but it does go a little way to explaining our modern
Also in that Three
Ways were featured a number of words the touch typist can key on a
keyboard with the left hand only, right hand only, alternate hands,
feet, nose, etc. Were you as surprised as I was to learn that “typewriter
words” hold endless fascination for some compulsive word jugglers?
Indeed, there’s at least one Internet site where they thrive in
sumptuous profusion — A
Collection of Word Oddities and Trivia, maintained by Jeff
Miller, a teacher at Gulf High School in New Port Richey, Florida.
isn’t Bikwil’s policy willy-nilly to pinch the stuff of Net
obsessionists (come on, who’s kidding whom here?), so I’ll gingerly
extract just a handful of writing-machine extras from Miller’s work,
and leave you to seek out the rest in your own time. Seeing that someone
will soon come up with more astounding examples, you’ll notice that I
for one won’t dare say “longest”, just “long”.
left hand only: Tessaradecads — meaning “groups of fourteen”
(though, according to Miller, who quotes Webster2, it’s spelt “tesseradecades”;
my spelling is OED2’s).
right hand only: Polyphony.
top alphabetic row only: Proprietor, perpetuity.
middle alphabetic row only: Alfalfas.
alternating hands, two letters at a time: Postmuscular.
the way, up there I twice used the word “antonymous” (by childlike
analogy with “synonymous”), but according to OED2 such a formation
doesn’t exist. Nor, for that matter, does “antonymic”. Both,
however, are in the Merriam Webster Internet dictionary, and “antonymic”
is in Macq3. We await OED3 with great eagerness.