Have and Behave


I made a connection!! When my grandson misread “have” rhyming it with “gave” — the heavens opened, the light shone, the ground trembled. Could there be a bridge between have and behave?

Longtime readers of this blog know that I get terrifically close to tipsy on be- prefix words. New readers: I can’t explain it: I just love them. Betake, benumbed, befuddled, besought, beribboned. And on and on.

Have comes from Old English habban “to own, possess; be subject to, experience”

Behave comes from be- intensive prefix + have in sense of “to have or bear (oneself) in a particular way, comport”

::Happy sigh::

Isn’t life delicious?


“A fathom,” he showed me stretching wide
in his black three-piece suit and silver watch chain,
“is the measure of the arms across the body from fingertip to fingertip
because fathom, or a word like it, faethm,
was the Old Northern European word for embrace.”
~Frank Delaney in Simple Courage: The True Story of Peril on the Sea.

This is the kind of stuff that makes my heart race:  using a word for a measurement from the universally understood action of embrace.  Here’s more.

A fathom is now a nautical measure of six feet,
but it was once defined by an act of Parliament as
“the length of a man’s arms around the object of his affections.”
The word derives from the Old English faethm,
meaning “the embracing arms.”  

from The QPB Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins   

When we speak of mysteries beyond comprehension, we call them unfathomable.  You can’t wrap your arms (or your mind) around it.  Carson, my son who worked on a seiner fishing for salmon in Alaska, said, “Something is unfathomable when you run out of rope.” 

Oh, the depths of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable are his judgments and how incrutable his ways!

~ Paul in the espistle to the Romans


Sanction: Two Meanings

I was writing a policies and procedures manual yesterday; I was required to include a section on sanctions.  Hmmm, I thought, I need to review this word.  What I discovered made my day!

Sanction comes from the root word sanctus (to make holy) and has two opposite meanings.  Two completely different meanings which come from one source.  There is fodder here, my friends. 

Sanction is one of three words in English which have two contradictory meanings. 

    Sanction:  1.  to allow, encourage   –   Do you sanction sloppiness?
                    2.  to punish so as to deter  –    Do you sanction sloppiness?

    Dust:         1.  to remove dust from   – I need to dust my wood floors.
                     2.  to put dust on  – I will dust the cake with powdered sugar.

    Trim:         1.  to cut something away  –  I need to trim my slideshow.
                     2.  to add something as an ornament  – Would you trim the tree?

I am reminded of the homonyms raise and raze which have opposite meanings: to build up and to tear down.  So if you hear someone say he is going to [raise/raze] a house, you wouldn’t really know what was going to happen, would you? 

Words.  Intoxicatingly wonderful.

***Addendum*** Ruthie mentioned cleave:   1.  To join together
                                                                      2.  To separate.