This blog is for everyone who uses words.

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

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Nuts and Bolts: splitting the atom.

So, what's a bluebell?

Well, even someone who'd never seen one could probably guess which of these flowers it is:

File:Bluebell flowers.jpg
Photo by Jim Champion, Southampton


File:Sunflower head.jpg
photo: Brandon Weeks

Yes, it's the one that's blue and bell-shaped. Well done.

That habit of shoving two words together to make a new one is generally rather a help. It gives us a clue as to what a cupboard originally looked like, for instance; and it tells anyone who doesn't know already the purpose of a funfair.

Sometimes, though, it's not easy to see where we should be splitting up words to get at their meanings.

Now, I don't want to get into trouble, here, so all I'm saying is that the words titrant and tittup often cause me moments of confusion.

And as for the many plants called superbum...

Word To Use Today: a titrant is a liquid that helps with measuring how strong chemicals are. This word comes from the French titre, meaning the portion of gold or silver in an alloy. I can't pretend this words is much use in everyday life, but tittup is useful. It means to prance or frolic, or it can describe the sound of tapping high heels.

File:Plateau High Heels.jpg
Photo by Stevelefrancais

Tittup first appeared in the 1700s, probably as an imitation of the sound of a galloping horse.