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Thursday, December 15, 2005


It suddenly came clear to me why I am an amateur etymologist – maybe even a rank amateur. The phrase “rank amateur” was the device that brought me to this abrupt conclusion. But the weird part about an abrupt conclusion is that sometimes it takes a while to arrive – it was quick, but in a slow sort of way.

Anyway, when I looked up a rank amateur, to compare them with the regular kind, I found that rank – when applied to amateur – meant an utter or absolute one. Then when the applicable definition of utter turned out to be ‘unconditional or unqualified’, dark clouds of contradiction began to form. When the definition of the word absolute also mentioned unqualified, small lightning strikes of confutation joined the dark clouds.

All that was stated to say this – considering the aforementioned expanded definitions, when someone is a rank amateur at anything, it means that they need no qualification as to their standing in the ranks. The problem? The term “rank” is a qualification in a situation that needs no qualification. So where did this non-confusing - confusing term come from? My guess is that it came from some elitist professional that didn’t care for amateurs at all and insinuated that they all stunk.

What was my abrupt conclusion that came somewhat slowly? The study of words (etymology) is sometimes confusing, so I’ve decided to not to turn pro, but instead, to hold more firmly to my amateur status, albeit mostly unqualified. My ramblings in that field could only be qualified if there was a ranking for those searching out the inane and fatuous parts of the language – and yes, those are actual words because I have tripped over them before. Then maybe I had no conclusion at all, but simply a continuation – as per usual.

With my amateur etymologist status totally cleared up, my mind wandered on to a more meaningful word – enjoy. This word has the definition: “to take pleasure in; experience with joy”. Deep in my AE (amateur etymologist) heart, I felt there had to be more to the word than that. This because I have enjoyed pulling weeds, a good hamburger and banana pudding – notice the ascending levels of enjoyment.

If one can enjoy something as lowly and mundane as “offing” a garden weed, surely there are greater enjoyments than that, and though it’s a stretch, some even better than banana pudding. To prove to myself that this word had to have a deeper meaning, I decided to take the word apart to see what made it tick.

The first part of the word, en-, is a prefix forming verbs that have the general sense "to cause (a person or thing) to be in'' the place, condition, or state named by the stem. Joy being the stem in this case, I came away with the idea that the whole word meant to cause oneself or another to have joy. Since it usually involves some sort of action in the enjoyment of something, and joy is a feeling, I draw a sense that the en- stirs up and adds to the joy part of the word.

In studying this information, I learned that the adding of an affix is called inflection and the study of inflections is called accidence, closely related to the word accident, which is how I ran into all this heavy stuff to start with. Inflection is contrasted with derivation and that means the process of adding affixes to or changing the shape of a base, thereby forming a word that may undergo further inflection or participate in different syntactic constructions. Wow, that sounds like word surgery and maybe painful – but I did enjoy the dance.

The original source of the word ‘joy’ has to be God, since every “good and perfect gift” comes down from Him. Then I realized that God ‘enjoys’ us in several ways. Perhaps you have noticed one of them where the Word states that there is joy in the presence of the angels when a sinner is saved – and in whose presence are the angels? Another would be that since we are God’s children, I have to believe He enjoys us in much the same way we enjoy our children and grandchildren – when they (and we) do the good stuff – or the hilarious.

Most important of all is that He does en- (causes us to be in) joy us. God makes all joy possible. Even though joy is a choice, problems arise when those without God don’t know their choices. As bad as it sounds, they may not know about the joy of the Lord because the Christians they know don’t have any - or haven’t told them that they even have a choice – not only about eternity, but also about joyous everyday living. ec


Blogger grannyfiddler said...

i had a brilliant english teacher in high school who twigged onto my love of vocabulary, and let me do the Reader's Digest 'know your vocabulary' instead of a book report.

ENJOYed your post

i did a very fascinating study on the word 'joy' in the Bible once. you've made me think it's worth revisiting.

12/15/2005 05:33:00 PM  
Blogger mreddie said...

grannyfiddler - Thanks for visiting the patch and for your remarks. I do so 'enjoy' words and exploring their various meanings - and even making up a few. :) ec

12/15/2005 07:53:00 PM  
Blogger Darlene said...

Febulous research, findings, and interpretations! I like to consider myself an amateur etymologist, too. Love words, the way they make our mouths move, the way they conjure emotions or our senses. I often spend far too long trying to find the explicit word I'm looking for when I'm writing, but if I want to get something across, I feel I need to use the (is it explicit or precise?) wording. Enjoy, as I do. And thanks for teaching me--I also love to learn.

12/15/2005 09:10:00 PM  
Blogger George Breed said...

Thank you, mreddie. That word joy is a delight! As darlene says, I like the way it makes my mouth move.

Your writing of en-joy reminds me of another word I like: enthusiasm. En-theos-iasm. To be filled with the theos.

I like being en-theos-iastic, as well as opening up to being a theos-o-logian. Get that heart brain and that ratio brain both going!

Blessings, Wordsmiths!

12/16/2005 04:46:00 AM  
Blogger Thom said...

On behalf of my father, who was an ae also (though i always ranked him number 1), thank you for these words today. He would have, and did, talk of words for hours on end.

12/16/2005 11:59:00 AM  
Blogger mreddie said...

darlene - Thanks for the kind words. I strive to be understood and then search for the word that enables that to happen. I'm not above bending word meanings for my own entertainment or even invent words. :)

george - Thanks for stopping by the patch. Like your word en-theos-iasm. We are definitely multi-dimentional and if we leave the spiritual side out, it leaves quite a hole.

thom - Thanks. The weird thing about the whole ae thing is that it only really surfaced about 5 years ago. My taste in word usage runs the gamut from silly to somewhat serious - but more heavily on the silly side. ec

12/16/2005 12:30:00 PM  

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