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January 21, 2014

What I Learned on Wikipedia Today

I love Wikipedia. I actually love it. I get lost for hours in it.

It's just so amazing: Virtually every subject you could possibly have an interest in, briefly explained, all at your fingertips.

A gigantic hyperlinked encyclopedia.

So, here's what I discovered today. Actually, I discovered four things, but this is the most interesting, I think.

Anyone ever hear of the "frequentive form" of a word? It's a process by which one inflect a word to indicate repeated or intense action.

This is actually a thing in English. Or at least it was. In older versions of English, you could just add -le or -er to a verb (usually a verb) to indicate a repeated action of that verb. You'd have to make some minor spelling changes to make sure the word flowed properly.

Now, we can't do this anymore. I can't say that I wankle instead of "wank" to indicate the repetitive mechanical fury with which I abuse myself, whirring and sparking like a misfiring industrial robot.

But you used to be able to do this in English, and everyone would understand what you were saying, because people understood the convention of adding -er or -le to a verb to indicate frequency or intensity.

But some "frequentive" forms of words became so widespread that they became words in their own right, which survive in English to this day. A great list is here, but here are some of my favorites:

bat --> batter. Repeatedly bat.

pat --> patter. Repeatedly pat. Like rain on a roof.

swathe --> swaddle. Repeatedly swathe.

wrest (as in seize) --> wrestle. Vigorously, continue "wrest" someone.

daze --> dazzle.

crack --> crackle. Okay that one is obvious, but did you know there was a specific rule for forming the frequentive form? So shut up.

bob --> bobble.

jig (the dance step or skip) --> jiggle.

float --> flutter. (How awesome is that?)

gleam --> glimmer. It's so obvious now, isn't it?

wade --> waddle. There you go. Makes perfect sense.

pool --> puddle. I guess it probably had a "poodle" transitional form.

Okay, now guess where jostle comes from, employing the rules and pattern above.

If you guessed

joust --> jostle

...then you guessed right.

Here's my absolute favorite. They slightly changed the spelling here, as they did with "swathe" and "puddle."

But you know where slither comes from?


Well, here's the answer:

slide --> slither

Is this awesome or am I just easily amused?

The Problem Is... Per "Tom Delay," in the comments:

The problem with wikipedia is it's a a vast sinkhole of information. You look up one thing and suddenly it's 4 hours later and you're reading an article on Antman.

Literally LOLed, because yeah, I've done that. And I did end up on Antman.

On this timesuck phenomenon of the "Wikiwander," Last Refuge of a Scoundrel sends this blogger's recounting of the various odd places that Wikipedia hyperlinks have taken him.

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posted by Ace at 07:46 PM

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