-By Doc Larrick, first published December 17, 2015 in the Dynamic Literacy News Letter
One of the goals of WordBuild is to arouse in students–of all ages–a curiosity about words. Once you start looking at words as pieces of meaning, you develop the habit of noticing patterns and wondering about similarities among words.
For example, did you ever think about the pair of words, today and tonight? Such familiar words! But delving into them, after isolating the forms day and night, the keenly curious word student will start wondering about the prefix to– on both words, and probably come to the correct conclusion that to– means something like on this. The next question that might occur to someone smitten with the love of how words work might be, “Are there other to– words?”
And then some fun begins. Ah, there’s tomorrow–so what is amorrow, anyway? And toward, and together! What’s ward? What’sgether? Did you guess that morrow means morning , that ward is adirection and that gether is gather? In England you’ll still hear the morning greeting “Good morrow”, it’s better to be toward than to be froward, and when things are gathered into one place, they are together.
Perhaps you have noticed that some writers spell the words as to-day and to-night. Then was there a to-morrow? (The answer is yes). Such observations in fact show how some words develop and progress. An originally two-word phrase (to day) will become a hyphenated word (to-day) and then one word (today).
Not to make such a to-do about this, but phrases like to be and to go are now being used as adjectives (to wit, a brideto–beor a to–go order of fries). Can you see why the spellings of these new adjectives will probably remain hyphenated? (The spellings tobe and togo would not readily be understood in print.)
Such wonderings and comparings lead to entertaining discoveries about words, and consulting a good dictionary with word histories (etymologies) is an enjoyable activity. Doing so, you’ll even discover that once there was the word to-year (this year). Put etymology-hunting on your to–do list–you’ll be well-rewarded. Stay tuned for more to come.