Big Words in English: Sesquipedalian

In honor of paraskevidekatriaphobia, I like to talk about long words every Friday the 13th. This Friday’s word is sesquipedalian.

It’s perhaps an especially appropriate word to discuss in a recurring segment on long words, as that’s exactly what sesquipedalian refers to. “Paraskevidekatriaphobia,” for example, is a sesquipedalian word: a unusually long word. You can even make sesquipedalian a little longer by turning it into a plural noun: sesquipedalianisms.

The emphasis is on the fourth syllable: ses/qui/pe/DAL/i/an. And there’s something fun about saying it, isn’t there? Maybe it’s that “qui” sound in the middle (“qui” like “queen” or “quite,” not like aqui). Or maybe it’s the hypnotic, lilting rhythm of the stress pattern.

You might have noticed ped/pedal in there, and recognized it from the classical stem word for “foot.” You’d be right; the sesqui– prefix is a combination of “semi” (familiar, hopefully, as meaning “half”) and “que” (“in addition”). Together, sesqui means “a half more again.” Together, something sesquipedalian is “one and a half feet long.” Its use in Latin dates back to Horace, who complained of sesquipedalia verba: words that were one and a half feet long. (Too long, in other words.) And while it can literally refer to anything that’s a foot and a half long, it’s mostly used to describe long words (perhaps thanks to that initial usage by Horace.) It can also refer to an overly and needlessly verbose writing style, rather than a particular word.

Language that describes language: it’s turtles all the way down!

Friday 5: Off-Balance

I’m a little annoyed that the post I had scheduled about being unavailable due to vacation somehow never went through, but on the other hand everything else I had prepared in advance did! Fortunately everything remained under control while I was away—I don’t need a vacation from my vacation or anything like that. On to this week’s Friday 5!

 

What most recently made you giddy?

Two things: dancing at a really good wedding, and watching the bats emerge at Natural Bridge Caverns. Those two memories alone are worth every penny I spent for this trip.

 

What most recently left you agog?

Sometimes the Friday 5 teaches me new words. I always took “agog” to mean “shocked” or “surprised”; I double-checked just now and instead it’s “full of intense interest or excitement.”

Pretty much my whole trip to the US had most recently left me agog, I suppose. I packed a lot into just three weeks of visiting!

 

What most recently left you aghast?

Despite all of the good vibes and good friends in my trip, there’s no denying I picked a tumultuous time to visit (which, welcome to the next three years). Neo-nazis demonstrating publicly, counter-protesters being injured or even murdered . . . and the worst part is I’m not even surprised.

A close friend of mine and his girlfriend are great admirers of James Tiptree, Jr. They saw me off from Boston with a copy of Her Smoke Rises Up Forever (though I think I left it in Albany, or possibly Old Orchard Beach), and one of the stories in there seemed all the creepier in light of contemporary goings-on: “The Screwfly Solution.”

 

What in your life is the most higgledy-piggledy?

Landing the next student or project is always higgledy-piggledy. Freelance life!

 

 What was your week a mish-mash of?

Maine, Massachusetts, Copenhagen, Stockholm. I was all over the place this week!

Greek and Latin Suffixes: F, I, L, O, and P

This is the third and final installment in the last part of my classical English affixes series. This is basically all of the Greek and Latin suffixes from “F” onward. That’s it! We’re all done!

Here is the previous installment in this list of suffixes:

For prefixes (morphemes that get attached to the beginning of words) and base words, you can refer to the rest of the series using the “affixes” tag.

Prefix Meaning Example
ful full of bountiful, plentiful
icle, cule small icicle, molecule
ify to make beautify
ist one who does scientist
less without tireless
let small booklet
ly in a (adjective) way slowly
ologist studier of, expert in hematologist
ose, ous, eous, ious full of verbose, populous, aqueous, spacious
phobe one who fears arachnophobe
phobia fear of claustrophobia

Greek and Latin Suffixes: C and E

This is the second installment in the last part of my classical English affixes series. Today’s suffixes all start with the letters “C” or “E.” (There aren’t really any that start with “B” or “D,” so I’ve obviously jumped over those letters.)

Here is the previous installment in this list of suffixes:

For prefixes (morphemes that get attached to the beginning of words) and base words, you can refer to the rest of the series using the “affixes” tag.

Prefix Meaning Example
cracy rule by democracy
crat ruler; one who believes in rule by auotcrat
ectomy surgical removal, “cutting out” tonsillectomy
el, il, le small morsel, codicl, scruple
ella ella umbrela
er more bigger, faster
er,or someone who does, something that does teacher, instructor
est most noblest, smartest

Greek and Latin Suffixes: A

This is the last installment in my classical English affixes series: suffixes. Suffixes are morphemes added to the end of a word stems, and rather than changing meaning, changes function. For example: change is a noun, but add the suffix -less and you get changeless, an adjective.

Today’s suffixes all start with the letter “A.”

Prefix Meaning Example
able, ible can or able to be done portable, audible
ance, ancy, ence, ency the state or quality of importance, hesitancy, patience, fluency
ant, ent having the quality of flagrant, potent
arch rule monarch
arium, ary, orium, ory place, room aquarium, library, auditorium, laboratory
(as)tery, (e)tery place monastery, cemetery
ate to make or do equate
ation the result of making or doing incarnation

Anki Vocabulary Decks: “Get” Phrasal Verbs

I’ve just shared another Anki vocabulary deck: phrasal verb expressions featuring “get.” “Get” is a high-coverage verb with a lot of uses and collocations; mastering it is an essential part of English fluency. A collocations deck will come later, but for now you can start familiarizing yourself with these assorted phrasal verbs (if you aren’t already)!

This, like my other Anki English vocabulary decks, is a pretty basic deck. I include front and reversed notes for learning the definitions of a given phrasal verb, and then cloze notes to familiarize yourself with their usage. No audio or images are provided, but you are welcome to edit the notes to include whatever you find most helpful. Many learners find it helpful to use images whenever possible; I avoid using images for my publicly shared decks because images work best when you select them for yourself (rather than me selecting them for you).

For information about how to import a shared Anki deck into your own library, you can refer to Anki’s extensive help manual or intro videos. You can also feel free to add any of my other shared Anki ESL decks to your library. Please rate them if you find them useful, and comment or Tweet at me (@KobaEnglish) if you have any suggestions, either for improvements or for future decks!

Greek and Latin Prefixes: R and S

I don’t know why it’s been so long since my last prefix post! Things have been happening here. But let’s continue with our tour of classically derived morphemes!

There aren’t any Greek- or Latin-derived prefixes in English beginning with “Q,” so we’re skipping ahead a bit here (again) to “R” and “S.”

Reminder: prefixes are morphemes that you can attach to word stems. (You can browse that link for previous posts on classically derived word stems.) Generally speaking, prefix changes word meaning, not word function.

Here are previous entries in this series on prefixes:

Prefix Meaning Example
re back, again repel, revise
se aside, apart secession
su(b) below, under, up from under submarine, suffer, suppose
super, sur on top of, over, above supersede, surreal

Anki Vocabulary Decks: “Do” and “Make” Phrasal Verbs

I’ve made it clear that I’m a big fan of Anki, but I’ll be the first to admit that the process of creating new decks can be tedious, especially if you’re a busy person. That’s why I’m here!

Here’s the first volume in my intermittent series of Anki decks for English phrasal verbs: “do” and “make.” Both decks include basic definitions as well as cloze exercises for each given meaning of a phrasal verb to provide an in-context usage example. My earlier decks include a pronunciation deck for initial “h” and a cloze practice deck for English participial adjectives.

All of the above decks are available to anyone who wants them. They are also all monolingual (English-only). Once you add them to your Anki library, feel free to edit or add to them as much as you like: add definitions in your native language, add pictures, add sound files, whatever! If you don’t know how to add shared decks to your personal Anki library, or how to edit cards, there are detailed instructions in a variety of languages here.

More decks are on the way, so keep an eye out! And if my humble decks were of any help to you, consider rating them? Thank you!

Greek and Latin Prefixes: O and P

Another prefix post brought to you by the letters “O” and “P.” (As per Greek and Latin Roots, there aren’t any Greek- or Latin-derived prefixes in English beginning with “N,” so we’re skipping ahead a bit here.)

Prefixes are morphemes that you can attach to word stems. (You can browse that link for previous posts on classically derived word stems.) Generally speaking, prefix changes word meaning, not word function.

Here are previous entries in this series on prefixes:

Prefix Meaning Example
ob* up against, in the way obstruct
para aside, apart paramedic, paranormal
per through, thorough; wrongly permeate, persecute
peri around perimeter
poly many polytheism
post after postpone
pre before precedent
pro forward, ahead, for promotion, provoke

*”Ob” tends to change form arbitrarily. (This is probably not arbitrary; there are probably linguistic or phonological reasons some changes happen or some don’t. But it can seem arbitrary.) “Ob” is still connected to words like “oppose” or “offend.”

Greek and Latin Prefixes: I and M

Another prefix post brought to you by the letters “I” and “M.” (As per Greek and Latin Roots, there aren’t any Greek- or Roman-derived prefixes in English beginning with “K” or “L,” so we’re skipping ahead a bit here.

Prefixes are morphemes that you can attach to word stems to form completely new words. Prefixes in particular tend to change a word’s meaning (rather than a word’s part of speech). If you’d like, you can read more about English root words derived from Greek and Latin. Those are the stems or base words to which these prefixes can (theoretically) be added.

Here are previous entries in this series on prefixes:

Prefix Meaning Example
in, im, il not (negative) inequity, improper, illegal
in, im, il in, on, onto (directional) induct, impose, illuminate
infra beneath infrastructure
inter between, among intervene
mega, megalo big megachurch, megalomaniac
meta* across, change metamorphosis
micro small microcosm
mis wrongly misinterpret, mistake
multi many multivitamin

*”Meta” has also taken on its own meaning of something like “above” or “outside of.” Something that deals with the metaphysical, in everyday language, is almost synonymous with supernatural, or realities that people perceive as being above or beyond our own.** Scholars refer to metatexts and metatextual discourse: texts that are about another text. Stories that refer to the fact that they are stories, and where the person or people writing want to remind you that this is a story, are often casually described as meta. A recent example of a meta movie would be Deadpool, a superhero movie where the lead character constantly takes breaks from the action to directly address the audience and generally exists outside the story as well as within it. And while only fairly intense scholars will throw around words like “metatextual,” even casual audiences will describe a book or movie as “meta.”

**As a student of philosophy, I have to be pedantic and point out that that the word metaphysics was originally used to describe the line of philosophical inquiry that focused the nature of the reality we see here and now, not reincarnation and chakras and auras. The two meanings of “metaphysics”/”metaphysical” are related, but not identical.