For the last two days we’ve looked at native English word, the Latin cognate verbum that has become verbo/verb, and a couple of derivatives. From verbum ‘word’ the Romans created the adjective verbosus, which Lewis and Short’s A Latin Dictionary defined as ‘full of words, wordy, prolix’ and, recognizably in English, ‘verbose.’ Not surprisingly, Spanish renders the Latin word verboso; the matching noun is verbosidad/verbosity, which begins to smack of pomposidad/pomposity. English wordy and even wordiness, based as they are on the native word, have less nerdiness.

To verbum Latin added the prefix pro- ‘forward’ to create proverbium, etymologically ‘a saying [that with its insight carries you] forward [into life].’ We’ve carried that forward as proverbio/proverb, with corresponding adjective proverbial. Alongside proverb English has the hyphenated doublet pro-verb, where the pro, like its Spanish descendant por, conveys the idea ‘for, in place of.’ In the same way that a pronombre/pronoun is ‘a word that stands in place of a nombre/noun,’ a pro-verb stands for a verb. The default pro-verb in English is do. In the statement “You sing better than I do,” the pro-verb do stands for sing. The Spanish version of pro-verb is the unhyphenated, i-less proverbo, and the most common one is, as in English, hacer[lo]. In “Tú vendiste tu casa pero yo no quiero hacerlo,” [“You sold your house but I don’t want to do that”], hacerlo stands for the verb phrase vender mi casa.

And I, not wanting to sell my house or be accused of verbosity, will end today’s posting here.

©2010 Steven Schwartzman


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If you encounter an unfamiliar technical term in any of these postings, check the Glossary in the bar across the top of the page.
©2011–2016 Steven Schwartzman
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