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



Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Nuts and Bolts: words beginning with vr.

When you think how many people's very first word is vroom! it's surprising that English has so few words using the sound vr.

There's vraisemblance, which we've borrowed from French, but generally we say verisimilitude instead, a word less huskily elegant than vraisemblance and more...silly. But, hey, there's the English for you.

Then we have some words borrowed from Africaans: vrot, meaning rotten or putrid; vrou, a woman or wife; and vrystater, a native of the Free State. Sadly, though, those are all really pronounced fr, not vr.

There are some words of now-no-longer-used Middle English: Vryday (Friday) vram (from) vreo (free); and there are some obscure dialect words: vraic (seaweed, as in wrack), vreend, friend, and vrocht (work); but they're too similar to our current versions to be useful. 

That leaves us with just two words: vriester, which means a girl (or did, once, in about 1650) and vril, which is more interesting.

Vril is a mysterious electromagnetic substance invented by Edward Bulwer-Lytton in his 1870 best-seller The Coming Race. The coming race in question, the Vril-ya, have supernatural powers derived from vril.

If this seems about as obscure as the other vr words, then I direct you to Bovril:

File:Bovril 250g.jpg
photo from GFDL

 This is a tarry substance popular in Britain. It is very much like yeast-extract (though made from beef). The Bo- bit implies that it's to do with bovine animals (Latin bos, ox) and the vril lays claim to supernatural powers.

How the makers manage to get away with it I just can't think.

Word To Use Today: one with a vr in it. Vraisemblance is to do with the French vrai, which means true. Vrou is basically the same word as Frau. Vriester comes from the Dutch vrijen, to woo. But, really, the only words that are usable of all these are Bovril and vroom.


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