This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Nuts and Bolts: bahuvrihi.

These are all over the place. No, really, they are, and the only unusual thing about them is their name, which sounds like something from the menu of an Indian restaurant.

There's a good reason for that, too.

Anyway, bahuvrihi. People argue about exactly what makes something a bahuvrihi, but basically a bahuvrihi is a two-part word which describes a part of something but actually means the whole thing.

For instance, a sabretooth describes...well, all it really describes is the tooth of an extinct big cat. It doesn't give us the whole picture -but if you read he got attacked by a sabretooth you don't start imagining a single tooth slashing down out of thin air. (Well, you might if you're a creative type, but otherwise you accept that it's the whole cat doing the attacking.)

Other examples of bahuvrihis are hatchback, redcoat and bluebell.

Bahuvrihis are always two-part words like these, and they're everywhere: used not only by the highbrows, but by the halfwits and boneheads, too.

Type Of Word To Use Today: bahuvrihi. This is a Sanskrit word and, rather neatly, bahuvrihi is itself a bahuvrihi because the word is made up of bahu, which means much, and vrihi, which means rice. Put together they mean a rich man.

1 comment:

  1. I have neither seen nor heard of this word ever before. A new world awaits me...fantastic. It'll take a bit of practising before I can say it as though it's a word I've grown up with, but I am working on it. I've been using these bahu whatsits for all my life and never known about it! Shades of Moliere's Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme who was amazed to find he'd been speaking PROSE all his life. Apologies for no accent on the first e of Moliere. My old French teacher would have my guts for garters. Which is a good expression, n'est-ce pas?