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Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Have Fun With English - Part A

Atlast, a post with absolutely no external links, photos or videos. Boy, am I glad too!

Many of us Indians feel easily intimidated by the very thought of having to learn, speak or write in English. Incidentally, we often tend to substitute the word intimidated, where we intend to say intimated or imitated. Like most languages, English can also be easily mastered using a targeted, rules based approach to grasp its nuances. Let's take a closer look at how that's achieved.

Let me take a sample set of words that have nearly opposite meaning. All that it takes to arrive at either words in a word-pair, is a rudimentary understanding that a prefix like Ap- could possibly have an opposite effect to the prefix Re-.
Example: Approbate and Reprobate.
Approbate is someone or something that wins the approval or stamp of authority. Reprobate on the other hand, is what's unacceptable and unworthy. With this context in mind, let's examine some more word pairs where an understanding of the meaning of one of the words in the pair automatically hints about the other:
Prefixed by AP                  Prefixed by RE
Apprehend (understand)     Reprehend (rebut)
Approach (Approval)           Reproach (Reproval)
Appeal (petition/add)           Repeal (rescind/remove)
Sometimes Ap- and De- can also serve to create word pairs that are direct opposites to each other:
Appreciate (go up)              Depreciate (go down)
Apposition (adding new)      Deposition (settling away)

But there ends the Ap-/Re- or Ap-/De- pairing comparisons. There are instances like Appraisal where there is definitely a Re-Appraisal, a Reprisal, a Reprise but no corresponding Repraisal. The irrepressible desire to indiscriminately extend the rules of any language's grammar is aptly described by the famous Tamil expression "Yaanaikku Arramna, Kuthiraikku Kurram" (Elephants, not Helephants and Shelephants). We will explore other interesting word pairs like EX/RE, EX/IM and EX/IN later, in subsequent posts (or supersequent pres, if you please).

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