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The villagers were in awe of the new Swami ji. He had come to their village a week ago, in the course of his peregrinations. They felt very proud when he decided to settle down there.

“Have you seen the glow on his face?” They discussed in the village square. “He seems one with God!”

“Haan bhai, he meditated in the Himalayas for 500 years,” said another.

“Five hundred years!” Most of the people did not know this.

“Yes,” the man continued with reverence. “That too, without eating or drinking anything or even answering the nature’s call. Can you imagine that?”

“That must require prodigious willpower!” Someone gasped. “No ordinary man can be so conscientious!”

“That is why we also remain nescient,” said another. “Swami ji, on the other hand, is omniscient. He knows  everything about everybody’s past and their future. Nothing is hidden from him.”

“That reminds me,” another man chipped in. “Let me tell you how prescient Swami ji is. I was among the first ones to pay obeisance to him. It was a week ago, the very day he arrived. He blessed my head and with a smile said that joy was coming my way. I didn’t understand what he meant. The very next day, Bheekhu came to my home and returned the money that I had given to him three years ago, with interest! I had lost all hope of ever seeing it again!”

“Bheekhu returned your money?” Many men were astounded. One asked. “But why did you lend to him in the first place? We all know what an unconscionable fellow he is.”


“It had been only a few months since he came to live in our village, and I did not yet know the niceties of his character. And when I discovered them, ask me how I repented! But within a day of Swami ji’s arrival, he gave me my money. That is the power of Swami ji!”

“It’s Swami ji’s power, indeed!”

Swami ji left the village that very night. The ‘‘omniscient’’ Swami ji had been informed by one of his chelas that the police had come to know of his latest guise and would reach the village the next morning.

IE bheud-  awareness

‘Buddha’ means The Enlightened One. Gaya, where Buddha got enlightenment, has been called Bodh Gaya ever since. The Sanskrit word bodh means knowledge, awareness, and the centre of that awareness—the brain—is called budhi.


The English cousin of bodh is the verb bode.

Rudraksh’s mother did not let him step out of the house on his birthday, because in her dream that morning, she had seen him being attacked by goons and lying blood-splattered on the road. Such a gory dream certainly did not bode well, she told him, when he wanted to know why he could not go out.

A foreboding and an ombudsman are the etymological siblings of ‘bode.’

Latin reri to think,calculate


The panchayat of Goraan village arraigned Shiju Mall for marrying his son out of caste. The old man came with folded hands and bowed head and submitted that the marriage was not preplanned. His son had gone to attend the wedding of his friend’s sister, but just before the nuptial vows, the bridegroom’s father had demanded an impossible dowry; the girl’s family could not supply it and the baraat went back. To save the girl’s honour, his son offered to be her groom. “The boy got emotional,” his father pleaded before the five wise men, “and acted irrationally. That was his only foible. There was nothing between him and the girl before, may God kill me if I am lying.”

The panchayat conferred as the villagers and the fearful father looked on. Then, the Sarpanch spoke up. “You have tried to rationalize your son’s crime but we refuse to accept your explanation. There is a rationale behind our traditions; that is why they have stood for so long. We cannot let them be undermined by mere, momentary emotions. We cannot ratify this marriage, or else tomorrow, every young man and woman will marry whosoever they will, citing their emotions. What will happen to our society then? No, we cannot ratify this marriage. The panchayat of Goraan directs you to either annul the marriage or leave the village with your family.”

The one other word from this root is ratiocination, the very thing that such autocratic panchayats do not allow.

Greek dokein to think believe

The words dogma and dogmatic are built on dokein.

Dokein is a verb. The noun form of ‘think’ is ‘thought’, of ‘believe’ is ‘belief,’ and of dokein is doxa.


“Doxa!” did you exclaim, and immediately think of orthodoxy? Well, an orthodox follower of a religion is not the only one with doxa. Paradox and heterodoxy have it too.


The individual who does think by himself is very rare. Most of the people believe what they have been taught to believe. That is why, closely related to the Greek root doxa is the Latin root docere, to teach.

The word ‘doctor’ originally meant a teacher, and because a teacher is considered to be an authority on his subject, it came to be used in the sense of ‘an expert, an authority.’ Someone who has earned the highest academic degree conferred by a university in his discipline, therefore, deserves to be called a doctor. The doctor to whom we go with our ailments is technically, the doctor of medicine.


The other words from docere are: dociledoctrineindoctrinatedoctrinaire

Latin scriber to write

In latin language scriber's meaning is to write.


In 82 BC, Lucius Cornelius Sulla became the dictator of Rome and immediately published at all the public places, a list of ‘the internal enemies of the state.’


Around 1,500 nobles were on this list. Their citizenship was revoked and their property was confiscated by the state. Sulla directed the Romans to have no relation and sympathy whatsoever to a proscribed man; anybody who did was punished, mostly by death. The citizens who informed the state about the whereabouts of any ‘man on the list’ were richly rewarded.


Within a few months, Sulla had hunted around 9,000 ‘enemies.’

Apart from the dreaded proscription, writing can also be used to ascribecircumscribe, conscribe and


Greek graphein to scratch, write, draw

Greek gramma a piece of writing, a picture

Around mid-sixteenth century, a huge deposit of a black substance was discovered in a small village of England. The locals found that they could saw it into sticks and use it to mark their sheep. Later on, they also started writing on wood with it. They thought it was lead, and so called that deposit plumbago(‘lead ore’ in Latin).

It was in 1779 that an English chemist, K.W. Scheele, finally discovered that the substance was not lead but a form of carbon. In 1789, Abraham Gottlob Werner, a German geologist, named it Graphite, from graphein, because it was used to write.

Yet, out of habit, people continued calling the writing stick of a pencil, lead, hence leading to befuddling statements like ‘the pencil lead is made of graphite’!

Graphein-1: graphic, paragraph, geography, topographygraffiti

Graphein-2: cartographeragraphiaepigraph

Graphein-3: orthographyhagiographygraphology

Gramma-1: grammar, parallelogram, program

Gramma-2: electrocardiogram, anagramepigram


The teacher began his lecture: “Like all languages, English orthography has a set of rules that decide how the oral words are written down…”

“Rules!” Long-suffering-Rhea couldn’t control her emotions and spoke up. “Each time I write in English, I trip over some orthographical stumbling-block, and you say, sir , rules! Tell me, why isn’t chemistry written with a ‘k’ then? And, what is a ‘k’ doing in knock? Why is it laugh and not laaf?

Daughterand laughter, how different they are in pronunciation, why then are they spelled similarly? When the spelling of books is not boox, why do we write box and not boks. And in any case, boks too doesn’t give the right pronunciation. Why isn’t the word spelled bauks? Why through, and not thru? I write exactly as you pronounce the words, sir, and still get zeroes in the dictation. No sir, English orthography is a jungle of no rules. Thank you.”


Latin plumbum lead

You probably remember that the chemical symbol of Lead is Pb. That is the abbreviation of the Latin name of Lead.


What do we call the guy who mends our leaking taps and waterpipes? Plumber. According to etymology, this guy should be ‘a lead worker.’ Then how did he stray towards the water pipes? Actually, the water pipes of yore were made of lead. Due to the tasks a plumber does, this word has also started being used for a person hired to detect and remedy leaks of sensitive information in an organization.


The other words from the oh-so-heavy plumbum are:


Plumbum-1: Plumb, aplomb

Plumbum-2: Plummet, plunge



Sophist: (n) a person whose reasoning is fallacious but is done so skillfully that the listeners believe it.

Fallacious: (adj) logically wrong, either because of ignorance or deliberately, in order to mislead. A fallacious argument is called a fallacy.

Exotic: (adj) foreign, unusual, new.

Origin: Gk exo-, out + -tic => ‘brought from outside’

  • A tea festival Cha cha was organized in the city. Along with traditional brews like Kashmiri Kahwa, masaaledaar chai and taaza adraki chai, it served many exotic teas like Thai lemongrass tea, Chinese Green Tea, Lapsang Souchong and flavoured teas like Earl Grey and Caramel.

Metaphor: (n) a figure of speech which uses a word in a situation to which it is actually not applicable, in order to make an idea clear.

  • Consider the phrase ‘sweet voice.’ The word ‘sweet’ actually cannot be used for ‘voice’ because ‘voice’ is not a thing; you cannot keep it on your tongue and taste it. However, using the word ‘sweet’ for voice immediately tells the reader that it is very pleasant sounding- as pleasant to the ear as sweets are to the tongue. Thus, the word sweet is used metaphorically here.

Sophisticated: (adj) very complex or complicated, lacking natural simplicity; worldly-wise.

Origin: Gk Sophia, wisdom => ‘very wise and knowledgeable’

(n) a very small amount, a jot.

Origin: Gk iota, the ninth and the smallest letter of the Greek alphabet (just like i is the smallest letter in the English alphabet) => very small


  • I do not care an iota about what anyone says.

We can use the words ‘jot’ or ‘whit’ instead of ‘iota’ in the sentence above.

: (n) a clever method of reasoning which makes an argument seem plausible on the surface. Only if one inspects the line of reasoning

with care does one see the many fallacies it contains.

Sophomore: (n) a person in the second year of high school or college, or of any endeavour. Sophomoric means ‘like a sophomore

intellectually pretentious, overconfident, conceited, etc., but immature.’

Peregrination: (n) travel from place to place, esp. on foot.

Prodigious: (adj) marvelous, extraordinarily huge.

  • She is undoubtedly a prodigious talent with a bright future.
  • The poet’s output in the last one year has been prodigious.
  • “I must have a prodigious amount of mind; it takes me as much as a week, sometimes, to make it up!” —Mark Twain

See also, prodigy.

Conscientious: (adj) one who listens to his conscience and, therefore, never does the wrong thing; very careful in his work.

Origin: conscience

  • The new doctor was conscientious. He refused to prescribe expensive tests to patients to earn commission from the testing laboratories, something that all his colleagues did.
  • The new doctor was conscientious. He spent a lot of time with each patient and asked him a large number of questions about the symptoms to make sure that he had, indeed, made the correct diagnosis. His colleagues barely spent more than a minute on a patient.

Nescient: (adj) not knowing anything; ignorant.

Origin: L ne-, not + scientia, knowledge

Omniscient: (adj) one who knows everything.

Origin: L omni-, all + scient-, knowing

  • The story of Charles Dickens’ novel Bleak House is narrated in part by the novel’s heroine, Esther Summerson, and partly by an omniscient narrator.

Prescience: (n) foreknowledge, knowledge of things before they happen.

Origin: L pre-, before + scientia, knowledge => ‘knowledge beforehand’. Notice that the word foreknowledge has an exactly parallel

construction. Pre- = fore; scientia = knowledge

Astounded: (adj) shocked with surprise.

Origin: alternate form of ‘astonished.’

Unconscionable: (adj) not listening to his conscience, done by not listening to one’s conscience.

Origin: L un-, not + conscionable. Conscionable is the now out-of-fashion opposite of unconscionable.

Nicety: (n) a fine detail, something requiring extreme care.

Bode: (v) to foretell, to be an omen of.

  • Many people believe that a black cat crossing your way does not bode well for the work you have set out to do.

Gory: (adj) full of blood; unpleasant.

Origin: gore, ‘blood.’ So ‘gory’ means ‘bloody’ and because it is unpleasant to see blood, ‘gory’ means ‘unpleasant’ too.

Foreboding: (n) a strong inner feeling about what is going to happen in the future; a prediction.

Origin: Fore, before + bodh, knowledge => ‘knowledge beforehand.’

  • The Hindi counterpart of foreboding is prabodhan, made of Skt pra-, before + bodh, knowledge.
  • Rudraksh’s mother did not let him step out of the house on his birthday because she had a foreboding that something bad was going to happen to him.
  • Two women, one old and one young, were talking in the park. A young woman joined them. They asked her how her pregnant sister was. “Oh, she’s alright,” she said sadly. “A daughter was born to her.” “Oh,” the other young woman moaned in sympathy. “Didn’t they get the sex test done?” “They did. The doctor had told my sister it was a boy.” The old lady, who had listening to them silently, now spoke up, her words full of foreboding. She said: “Twenty years later, when you will not be able to find brides for your sons, you will all remember this day and lament,” she looked at the dismayed aunt of the new-born girl, “why you didn’t let more girls be born.”

Ombudsman: (n) a person who hears and tries to resolve the complaints of the people against the authorities.

Origin: Swedish um-, around + bodh, command + man => ‘a man who has the authority to command around’

  • The Ombudsman for local self-government institutions, Justice H.K. Sinha, held a sitting in the village Rudgarh. Thirty-nine cases were heard and four cases decided.
  • Shefali Gandhi, Banking Ombudsman for Orissa and Chief General Manager of Reserve Bank of India (RBI), said that she has received the highest number of complaints for redress from customers of ABC Bank, followed by the Rural Indian Bank. She said a major chunk of complaints that she received was in respect of credit cards. The complainants nursed a grouse about billing and some other issues which taxed their purse.

Arraign: (v) accuse; to call an accused person before a court to hear his response to the charges made against him.

Origin: L ad-, to + reri, to reason => ‘to hear the reason’

: (adj) logical, based on reason, having the ability to reason.

Origin: L reri, to reason -> ration, reason (reason too is from the same root) -> rational

: (n) a small weakness of character, not a major character defect.

Origin: Old French feble, weak. The word ‘feeble’ which means ‘weak’ too is from the same root.

  • The sick man spoke feebly. The prolonged disease had made him feeble.

Rationalize: (v) to make logical, to make an action look logical when actually it is not.

  • The husband rationalized slapping his wife by saying that it was her mistake to have brought him plain water when she knew that he liked his water cold.

Rationale: (n) reason, logical basis for something.

Undermine: (v) to weaken something secretly by gradually eroding the foundation on which it stands.

Origin: under+ mine => ‘to mine under a structure’ => ‘to weaken the foundation on which the structure stands.’

  • The growing influence of Western culture on the Indian youth has undermined the institution of marriage in India.
  • Smoking undermines one’s health.

Ratify: (v) to approve officially.

Origin: L reri, to reason + facere, to make => ‘to make a reasoned decision’

  • The State Assembly ratified the Reservation Bill.
  • The Governing Council of the school ratified the appointment of the new teachers.

Ratiocinate: (v) to reason methodically.

Origin: L ration, reason

  • What are now termed ‘detective stories’ were earlier called ‘tales of ratiocination.’
  • Can you spot the error in this ratiocination? Let x=0. So, x(x-1)=0 => x-1=0 => x=1 =>0=1.

Well, the error lies in the second step. If x=0, we cannot write the second equation because it is just another way of writing x-1 = 0/x,

that is, 0/0. Division by 0 is not allowed.

: (n) a ruler who has all the powers and is not subject to any restrictions, a dictator.

Origin: Gk auto, self + -crat, ruler => ‘one who rules by himself ’ => ‘he rules without consulting or needing to consult anyone’ => ‘he has all the authority and needs not to listen to anyone”

  • Nagendra became the King of Zhaq in 1672 and ruled as an autocrat for some 18 years. Then, when he could not suppress the people’s rebellion any longer, he smartly got such a Constitution made which turned Zhaq into a democracy but gave the king the right to veto any decision of the democratic government.

Veto: (n) the right to cancel a decision.

Origin: L veto, I forbid.

: (n) an established belief or principle which everyone considers to be true; a group of such beliefs.

Origin: Gk dokein, to believe

  • Science needs a willingness to challenge old dogma. Only that person can develop a new idea who first has the courage to question the conventional wisdom.
  • “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma—which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to
  • follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”—Steve Jobs

Dogmatic: (adj) related with dogma; stubbornly sticking to one’s beliefs, asserting that they are the only correct beliefs there can be and not willing to listen to any other point of view at all.

  • Parenting is a tough job. Parents should not be dogmatic. They should shed rigid assumptions. Their children should feel confident that their viewpoint too is considered, even if it contradicts their parents’, and their individuality respected.
  • Scientists cannot be dogmatic. They are driven by experimental results. So, if something turns up which contradicts the prevalent line-of-thought, they change their belief and create some new theory which will be able to accommodate the new results. For example, Francis Crick, the man who co-discovered the DNA with James Watson, had once said that the central dogma of Molecular Biology was “DNA makes RNA makes protein”. This dogma held sway until some virus hunters discovered that there are viruses that have no DNA in them at all and yet they are able to infect cells and multiply.

Orthodox: (adj) sticking to one’s beliefs or the common beliefs.

Origin: Gk ortho-, straight, right + doxa, belief => ‘having the right belief ’

  • Sharda grew up in the early 1900s in an orthodox family. She was lucky that her father supported girls’ education. He enrolled her into a school, much against the wishes of her grandparents and uncles. Her grandmother had even refused to eat food for two days.

Paradox: (n) a statement which contradicts the general opinion and seems totally impossible, but is actually based on some logic and may be true.

Origin: Gk para-, opposite + doxa, opinion => ‘contrary to the general opinion’

  • It is an interesting paradox that the lesser facilities a student has, the better he does in competitive exams. Despite lacking even basic amenities, the students in Bihar achieve seats in IITs while the rich youth in Punjab, who have the best of everything, are increasingly dropping out of colleges and getting addicted to narcotics.
  • The paradox of our time in history is that we lead easier but more complicated lives. Technology has simplified our lives greatly. Yet, humans have never been so much under stress and tensions as today.

Heterodoxy: (n) holding such beliefs which are contrary to or different from the generally accepted ones.

Origin: L hetero-, different + doxa, belief

  • Emperor Akbar’s religious beliefs were heterodox. He wanted that all people in his rule should worship as they wanted to and showed equal respect to all religions. He later started a syncretic religion of his own-Din-e-Ilahi-which was a fusion of the main philosophies of all the religions of his land.

Syncretic: (adj) combining different types of beliefs.

Docile: (adj) teachable, easy to manage, obedient.

Origin: L docere, to teach => ‘teachable’

  • Docility is considered to be a must-have virtue for women in India. A bhartiya naari is supposed to always keep her eyes and her head down, never raise her voice, and to never take even a toe-nail outside the will of her father, brothers and later, husband and in-laws.

“Hamaari beti toh gau hai,” parents tell her prospective in-laws with great pride. A ‘good woman’ means a docile woman. One who is not docile is immediately labelled a shrew, a termagant.

Shrew: (n) an ill-tempered scolding woman.

Termagant: (n) an ill-tempered scolding woman.

Doctrine: (n) beliefs or principles taught by a teacher or a religious leader.

Origin: L doctor, teacher => ‘that which the doctor teaches’

  • Do you believe in the doctrine of rebirth?
  • Shail tried to argue with his friend that India should try to resolve the Kashmir issue peacefully, that war never solved any problems and the crores spent on developing nuclear weapons were ill-spent. His friend shook his head. “If all the world were of the same way of thinking, then this doctrine of peace would work,” said he. “But it will be deadly to try it when you are faced with an enemy who still worships the god of war.”

Indoctrinate: (v) to teach a set of principles or a belief system; to teach only one type of beliefs while giving the student no idea that alternate belief systems also do exist and so, giving the student a biased point of view.

Origin: L in-, in + doctrina, teaching

  • Many young Pakistani boys are indoctrinated against India by their local seminaries. They grow up believing that India is an evil empire of Satan which perpetually tries to destroy Pakistan, the Land of the Pure. Thus, a visceral hatred for India is inculcated in them and consider it their sacred duty to their motherland to fight against India and ruin it.

Visceral: (adj) felt till the depth of one’s inner organs.

Doctrinaire: (n) one who adheres to a doctrine rigidly without considering the possibility that it may not be practical or wrong or that other beliefs might be right.

Origin: doctrine

  • The priests of every religion and, therefore, a majority of the followers of those religions, remain rigid and doctrinaire on issues such as the sanctity of the family, inter-religious marriage, homosexuality and gay marriages, condoms, women, abortion, euthanasia and so on.

Note: here the phrase ‘rigid and doctrinaire’is tautological. Writing either of the two words would have been enough.

Confiscate: (v) to seize someone’s private property, as a punishment or otherwise, with official authority.

Origin: L con- + fiscus, treasury => ‘to put into the treasury of the state.’

Another word from fiscus is fiscal.

Fiscal: (adj) related with financial matters.

  • The fiscal year starts on April 1 and ends on March 31.

Proscribe: (v) to ban, declare illegal.

Origin: L pro-, before + scribere, to write => ‘to write before the world’ => ‘to publicly display just like Sula put his list of ‘the internal enemies of the state’ at all public places’ => ‘to declare someone an outlaw.’

  • When, in early 1998, the LTTE bombed the Temple of the Tooth Relic in Kandy, the Sri Lankan government proscribed the militant organization. The temple was the holiest Buddhist site of the island nation. The LTTE’s proscription in India had been already effected in May 1992 for its involvement in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi on May 21, 1991.

Ascribe: (v) to say ‘it is caused by’ or ‘it is made by’ or ‘it is made in’ or ‘it is a quality of.’

Origin: L ad-, towards + scribere, to write => ‘to write towards’ => ‘to give a reason or a characteristic of something’

  • The director ascribed the failure of his movie to the Cricket World Cup. “My film was targeted at the young males, and most young males were glued to their TV sets watching cricket and too engrossed to pay attention to what movie came or went. My timing was wrong,” he said, refusing to admit that his movie could have been flawed too.

Circumscribe: (v) to draw a circle around; to limit within a circular boundary.

Origin: L circum, circle + scribere, to write

  • Poverty circumscribes the dreams of a man. A destitute man who does not even know whether he will be able to get his next meal cannot dream much beyond getting enough to eat each day and a roof over his head.
  • The Prime Minister chose most of his sycophants as Ministers to circumscribe the authority of his rival leader in the party.

Conscribe: (v) to force into military service. A person who has been thus conscribed is called a conscript and the act is caled conscription.

Origin: L con- + scribere, to write => ‘to write down the name on army rolls’

  • The captured terrorist told the intelligence officials that the jehadi organizations forcibly conscript people into their armies, and that he too hadn’t taken up arms by his own volition.
  • In the 2000s, Russia began to transfer the core of its army from the draft to a volunteer professional force. Russia’s armed forces have about 1.1 million personnel, out of whom 500,000 are officers who sign contracts to serve. The remaining 600,000 are conscript soldiers and non-commissioned officers and are gradually being replaced by volunteers.
  • “Conscription is too high a price to pay to save a nation. Conscription is slavery, and I don’t think that any people or nation has a right to save itself at the price of slavery for anyone, no matter what name it is called. The United States has had the draft for decades now; I think this is shameful. If a country can’t save itself through the volunteer service of its own free people, then I say: Let the damned thing go down the drain!” Robert A. Heinlein

Draft: (v) to conscribe; (n) conscription

Transcribe: (n) to write down from oral notes, to translate in another language.

Origin: L trans-, across + scribere, to write => ‘to write across’ => ‘to write in a different form (as in oral to written) or different language etc.’

  • At the end of an American radio talk show or a news or TV show, a note is usually displayed on the screen that written transcripts of the programme are available. The guy who does that is called a media transcriptionist.

Befuddle: (v) to confuse thoroughly.

Graphic: (adj) related with writing or drawing; written or drawn in full detail.

Origin: Gk graphein, to write, draw

  • Paper based drawings are called 2-dimensional graphics.
  • Graphic designing is about representing an idea or information in a visual form.
  • The eyewitness gave a graphic account of the terrorist attack. We felt that it was happening right before our eyes.

Topography: (n) physical features of an area; mapping the physical features of an area.

Origin: Gk topos, place + graphein, to represent => ‘to represent the features of a place’

  • Open any atlas and you will find many topographic maps in it. By using colour codes, dots, dashes or solid lines—the meaning of which is explained in the margin of the map—a topographic map details the elevations or depressions in the area under study, and also the water bodies, forest cover, built-up area, roads, streets, even individual buildings (depending on the scale) and other natural or man-made features of the land.

Graffiti: (n) writing on the wall.

Origin: Gk graphein, to write

  • Ajay picked up a piece of charcoal. “What is this for?” Meena asked. “I’m going to leave our mark here. Imagine. You and I come to this garden fifty years later and here, upon this wall, ‘Ajay loves Meena’ welcomes us. How wonderful it will be, isn’t it?” Meena took the charcoal from him and threw it away. “Such graffiti only defaces the walls. My love doesn’t need such declarations.”

Cartographer: (n) map-maker. The study and practice of making geographical maps is called cartography.

Origin: Gk carta, chart + graphein, to write

  • Making of topographic maps is called ‘Topographic Cartography.’

Agraphia: (n) a disorder of the brain which makes one unable to write.

Origin: Gk a-, not + graphein, to write

Epigraph: (n) that which is written on a statue, a wall of a building or at the beginning of a book.

Origin: Gk epi-, upon + graphein, to write => ‘to write upon something’

Orthography: (n) the system of spelling, the study of the rules by which words are spelled in a language.

Origin: Gk ortho-, straight, right + graphein, to write => ‘to write correctly’ => ‘correct spelling’

  • The word pairs plain/plane, sun/son, here/hair/hare have the same pronunciation but are distinguished from each other orthographically.
  • There are orthographic differences between British and American English e.g., colour/color, dialogue/dialog, doughnut/donut, realize/ realise etc.

Hagiography: (n) writing about the lives of saints.

Origin: Gk hagio-, saint + graphein, to write

  • Saint Kabir was born in the 15th century into a Hindu Brahmin household and was adopted by a childless Muslim couple in Varanasi. He was dissatisfied with being a husband and a father. Apart from these basic facts, most of what we know about Kabir are myths and legends created about him by hagiographers of later centuries.

Graphology: (n) study of handwriting.

Origin: Gk graphein, to write + -ology, study

Anagram: (n) a word or phrase formed by rearranging the letters of another.

Origin: L ana-, back + gram, letter => ‘putting the leters back and forth’

  • Here are a few famous anagrams: William Shakespeare= I am a weakish speller; Princess Diana= end is a car spin; A decimal point = I’m a dot in place; desperation= a rope ends it; eleven plus two= twelve plus one; astronomer= moon starer; the eyes= they see.
  • The title of Shakespeare’s play Hamlet is an anagram of its inspiration, the legendary Danish prince Amleth.

Epigram: (n) a short, humorous saying.

Origin: L epi-, upon + gramma, writing => ‘a writing upon a surface’ => ‘a quote’ => ‘a witty quote’

  • Examples of epigram:

1. ‘The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it.’ Oscar Wilde

2. ‘I’m tired of Love: I’m still more tired of Rhyme. But Money gives me pleasure all the time.’ Hilaire Belloc

Yore: (n) time long gone.

Remedy: (n) a solution to a problem.

Plumb: (v) to measure the depth of. (n) the weight tied to one end of a string. That string is called a plumb line and is used either to measure the depth of water or by masons to determine if a wall is exactly vertical or not.

Origin: L plumbum, lead

  • There is a Punjabi epigram: dil darya samundron doonghe, kaun dilaan diyaan jaane? It says that hearts are deeper than rivers and oceans; it is impossible to plumb to the depths of somebody’s heart.

Aplomb: (n) the vertical position; extereme self-confidence.

Origin: L plumbum, lead -> Fr a plomb => ‘on the plumb line’ => ‘perfectly vertical’ => ‘with the back fully vertical. This is a posture of selfconfidence’

=> ‘self-confidence’

  • The scene: A wedding reception. The guests are busy chatting with each other and enjoying their drinks and snacks. Then, the bride, dressed in a creme gown, descends down the staircase in the manner of a queen. Such is her aplomb that the whole gathering falls silent and just watches her admiringly.

Plummet: (n) a lead bob attached to a string so that it becomes vertical and can be used as a plumb line. (v) to fall sharply.

Origin: L plumbum

  • Suhel was the class topper. But after his girlfriend left him, his marks fell like a plummet.
  • Suhel’s marks plummeted after his break-up. The former class topper barely managed to not get a reappear.

Plunge: (v) to push, throw or dive into something.

Origin: L plumbum -> plumbicare -> Fr plongier-> E plungen

  • The swimmer plunged into the pool.
  • The famine plunged the nation into starvation, debt and alarming price rice.
  • Tasting freedom for the first time, the girl from the village plunged headlong into the thrills of city life. Wild shopping, short clothes, discos, pubs, drugs, boys- she desperately tried to cram the twenty three years for which she had been kept away from all these glories into the one year she had in the city.

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