The Habit of Be-ing

DSC_4059It is my favorite cozy: snuggled in with a grandson, listening to him read. When Noah sounded out the word “before” we took a detour.

Oh, I love be- words; I actually collect them, I said.
You do?
Yes, let me show you!

I grabbed my journal. I am burdened with an insatiable urge to show-and-tell.

DSC_4088Be- words delight me, I explained. So when I spot  one, I write it down.

Later, when all the rest of the house was napping, I watched Noah cut and paste. He decided to make a little booklet. Well, now. Here’s something even I could help with. We could make you a be- book, I shamelessly suggested.

DSC_4063He started scanning every Bob Book in his possession, not the best place to find vintage words. But he found a few! I didn’t quibble about words that began with be that weren’t the prefix be- e.g. Benjamin, best, bend. One has to start somewhere.

DSC_4061When Noah loaded up to go to Safeway with Papa, he grabbed his book and a pen in case he found some more be- words. They found themselves in the beer section (a word he missed!) when Noah backed up into a stack of whiskey. It’s what they call in literature a destabilizing event. Curt threw out his hands trying to steady the waving bottles, mentally calculating the cost of this quick trip to the store. Fortunately, none fell.

But, suddenly, Noah is sitting on the floor with his book in front of him, writing down “Beam.” Few lessons could be found in a more unlikely location.

DSC_4079The next day Noah told Aunt Lindsey about his book. The first words out of his mouth were, Well, I love be- words. Like boat and baseball and balance? she asked. No, b-e- words like before and below. His younger brother Levi chimed in, I love be- words, too! What is your favorite? she asked him. Begin! What is your favorite? she asked me. I looked at her, a vibrant newlywed, and smiled. Beloved.

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Besotted

DSC_8169-001Besotted: adj. strongly infatuated.

I do this odd thing for the sheer joy of it. I collect be-prefix words.
All year long, while I read, I stop and copy words to the front
page of my journal. When the journal is full, I look at my
beribboned and bejeweled treasury.

Just in case there is someone else like me, I try to use be-words
in my writing, to bestow on them the joy I’ve betaken.
On an especially good day, I might make up a new be- word.

Now, I am fond of other prefixes.
Enfold, endear, enlivened, encourage…
I might start a new page in the back for en- words.

What does the “be-” do?
It means thoroughly, completely, to make.
It adds intensity.

When I looked it up, I discovered a new be- word:
bethwacked, “to thrash soundly.”
(imagine my hands and fingers flying in excitement)

Two be-prefix words are so common, we almost don’t see them.
Beloved. Greatly loved. More loved than loved.
Become. More than come; to come to be.

What about betray?
Add be- to the Latin tradere,
from trans – “across” + dare – “to give.”

Last year I was beguiled by —
behither (George Herbert)
befogged (Nora Waln)
bedraggled (D.E. Stevenson)

benumbed (Kathleen Norris)
beholden (Anthropologie line)
betokened (L.M. Montgomery)
bespectacled (Leo Marks)

bedecking (Jan Karon)
becalmed (Stewart O’Nan)
setbacks which bedevil modern life (Alain deBotton)
unbeknownst (Joanna Cannan)

bewail (Wendell Berry)
courageous and befitting (?)
bewigged (Elizabeth Goudge)
becalmed (Arabian Nights)

One of my favorites:
befriend, to cause to be friends.