Some words

Standard

 

 

Yesterday I interviewed the word “some.” Today you’ll see why I was impressed.

 

The Anglo-Saxons, those lovers of sturdy, compact words, spelled “some” with just three letters, sum. When you are a warrior, you can’t go into battle with extra gear, so you like your words spare and without extraneous letters. They bog you down. Anglo-Saxon warriors invaded and settled much of Britain, with simple spears, throwing them at their enemies until they got the point that this was more than a road trip. The ships the Anglo-Saxons came in weren’t going back. Those warriors also sent their words out to conquer hearts: read Beowulf and be prepared to submit. Today, when we want to make a point, we often grab some of those well-honed Anglo-Saxon words and throw them at our listener or reader.

 

First page of Beowulf manuscript from Wikipedia

 

Although “some” has been working for writers since the 9th century, including King Alfred the Great who translated of The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius, it still looks great. I think it’s because it gets so much exercise.

 

Some use it as a pronoun. As I just did. However, some people prefer it as an adjective. Like me, in that last sentence. Back when “some” was starting its career, it worked as both. Then in the late 1500s, it applied for a job as an adverb, pairing up with comparative adjectives, to say, “I’m feeling some better now.” Once it got used to being an adverb, some Americans asked it to work with verbs so they could say, “I think some about retiring from my job, so I can read blogs all day.” You might use it as an adverb, too, when you write your mother and say, “I’m sorry I haven’t written in the last six months, I now read some 200 blogs a day. I promise I’ll call at Christmas.”

 

Even though “some” likes being its own word and going out alone, it’s not a loner. In fact, it likes nothing better than going places with other words. After years of appearing in public with words like “one,” “body,” “where,” and “time,” it agreed to give up its autonomy and become one word, with the stipulation that its name appear first. It’s the only evidence of self-promotion that I discovered about “some.”

 

Since “some” rarely calls attention to itself, I’m inclined to look kindly on its desire to appear first because I admire its willingness to serve a suffix. As you well know if you read this blog, a suffix is like a dog’s tail. Had you bought my Dog and a Half kit (now marked down 85%!), which you didn’t, you would have been able to create a lot of words with the suffix –some. That should give you pause.

 

Back in the early 900s, “some” joined hands with “love” and produced that most lovable word, one of my favorites, called “lovesome.” Around the same time, it joined up with the word wyn, which meant “pleasant” or “agreeable” and gave us the word we now spell as “winsome.” It worked as a suffix for several hundred years, but for some reason, words like “whosome,” “whatsome,” and “wheresome” never caught on. I like them and think we should try to revive them.

 

In the middle of the 1400s, “some” became interested in numbers. Writers could now speak of a “twosome” or a “threesome.” Today, we have dozens of words – nouns,  adjectives, and verbs –  that end in the suffix –some. Some are regional, but they belong to all of us who love words. Here are some of my favorites:

 

  • Blithesome – cheery
  • Bunglesome – troublesome
  • Chucklesome – amusing
  • Delightsome – pleasing
  • Fulsome – abundant; plenteous
  • Fretsome – given to fretting
  • Irksome – wearisome
  • Meddlesome – given to meddling
  • Toothsome – pleasant to the taste
  • Ugsome – loathsome
  • Woesome – woeful

I could go on, but that would be tiresome and boresome. Have a heartsome day – one full of gladness and cheer.

 

An extract from the Anglo Saxon Chronicle © The Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, MS Laud Misc. 636, fol. 62v.

39 thoughts on “Some words

    • It’s like when you are a child and you repeat a word so many times that it starts to sound like gibberish. I try to write in such a way that the reader does not need to repeat the words to achieve that result.

  1. One of the First Story’s I read on my e-Reader, was the Saga of Beowulf revisited. I have a Great Likeness of Ald English…and Slang…as I found many a tosheroon in yon narrative…

  2. ohhhh … now I get it …. they were calling me “bunglesome”
    thanks for clearing that up … I thought I heard “jungle dumb”
    but couldn’t figure out how they knew I’d never been to the Amazon
    now it all makes perfect sense, in that chucklesome sort of fashion

  3. Old English is a lovesome thing 🙂 I enjoyed reading the snippet from ASC – is it the bit about Domesday book? I’m a little rusty… It was delightsome and made me feel blithesome 🙂 Ugsome is a good word, I feel some people might want to spell it with 2 g’s if they dislike ugg boots! 😉

  4. Your suffix series has been giving me a case of serious joy, and this latest short essay does not disappoint. Today, you gave me the gift of three things:

    1) You made me laugh. Your seemingly effortless, breezy style in this series is amazing to behold.

    2) I learned something new. (Oh look! Some!)

    3) You reminded me of a word I had forgotten that I love: toothsome. (Um? Yum!)

  5. Language can get overblown to the point of being cumbersome, but not “some”–a word that, happily, is greater than the sum of some of its parts. A lightsome treatment here of something really important!

  6. This is a beautiful piece. But I had to read it, put it aside, and read it again to really appreciate it. Despite my interest in language, I don’t think I’ve ever read anyone who writes like you. It’s a pleasure looking at language through your eyes.

  7. You are something else,
    I never get bored reading the delightsome pieces you’ve written.
    Somewhere there’s an editor who wishes they had a contract with you.
    Somehow, I’ve never felt any of my time on your site was wasted.
    Someday I hope to have some more ability with words so that I too can publish such fulsome posts.
    And to sum up, if you are ever in the neighborhood of my posts again, I hope you find some of my poetry winsome.

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