This blog is for everyone who uses words.

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

Monday, 10 June 2013

Spot the frippet: sleuth.

I first came across this superbly slippery word in that great work Jennings Goes To School, when Jennings and his trusty friend Darbishire begin to write a detective story called Flixton Slick Super Sleuth.

Now, you may say that it's hard enough to spot an ordinary sleuth, let alone a super one, but, consider: there is almost certainly a spy satellite somewhere above your head; Google knew when it was my birthday; and even this computer, on which I now type, keeps trying to sell me things to match my outfit for my daughter's forthcoming wedding.

Apart from this sort of electronic sleuthing there are human sleuths behind almost every twitching curtain and garden fence. (It's all right, there's no need to worry: the chance of anyone spotting you doing anything even remotely interesting is vanishingly small.)

Spotting this frippet is actually even easier than that, because sleuth is a contranym - that is, a word that means itself as well as its own opposite. You see, sleuth is also a form of the word sloth. So, as well as meaning keen, dogged and bloodhound-like:

Pypaertv modyfikacja Pleple2000

sleuth also means lazy, slow, delaying and neglectful.

And, obviously, spotting that sort of behaviour won't cause anyone any trouble at all.

Spot the frippet: sleuth. The word meaning detective comes from the Old Norse slo, which means to track or trail. The word for laziness comes from the Old English sláw, which means slow or sloth.

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