08 April 2009

To be or not to be

In the course of our daily business, we are often distracted by words themselves. Sometimes it's because we can't find the right one and sometimes it's because we can't make the one we love work in the context. And sometimes it just because words are wonderful. These ones caught our eye today.

besprinkled, bestrewed, besprent,
besmear, besmirch,
befog, begird, bedaub, bedizen
bedazzled, bequeath, beseech, bereft

Who doesn't love a prefix? Be- does bring a certain gravitas to otherwise ordinary verbs. Which also makes finding a context for them quite a task. Narrators or characters who besmear or bestrew may risk being beheaded if they step outside their natural era.

Of course, it can also be amusing to lose the prefix.*

We have often sprinkled and strewn, but, alas, we fail to recall a single occasion when we have sprent. We refrain from smearing and smirching, we aim to clear rather than to fog, we gird, we daub - but we are uncertain how we might ever manage to dizen. We do like to dazzle, and how we wish we could queath and seech, though perhaps there's never any need to reft.

*Surely everyone's favourite lost prefix is dis-. Who can resist the opportunity to be calmly combobulated or happily gruntled...


Penni Russon said...

I read befog as befrog.

lili said...

Methinks that if the Onions have not read The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, they should find themselves a copy forthwith.