Sunday, 4 October 2009

use of the prefix be-

I'm still wondering about the difference between the verb befriend and the verb, to friend.

I thought I'd have a look at the meaning of the prefix be-.

The dictionary on my computer has this entry for be- in the formation of verbs:
• all over; all around : bespatter.
• thoroughly; excessively : bewilder.
2 (added to intransitive verbs) expressing transitive action : bemoan.
3 (added to adjectives and nouns) expressing transitive action : befool | befriend.
4 (added to nouns) affect with : befog.
• (added to adjectives) cause to be : befoul.
5 (forming adjectives ending in -ed) having; covered with: : bejeweled.
ORIGIN Old English , weak form of bī [by.]

It sure is a useful prefix.

And when I looked in The Word Museum, by Jeffrey Kacirk, I found lots of lovely old words that we don't use now:
beblubbered = swollen
begrumpled = displeased (Now that one is definitely going into my vocabulary.)
begrutten = showing the effects of much weeping (I hope I don't need that one in the near future.)
behounc'd = tricked out to look fine (You'll have to buy the book to track down the origin of that one.)


Mary said...

Hi there,
why does that last word, behounc'd have an apostrophe? It makes me think of the fact that we used to pronounce the 'ed' as another syllable, as in blessed (which I still pronounce as a two syllable word in relation to prayer), although it wasn't with all words. There seems to have been a change in that too. Beloved is another one that occurs to me in this context.

parlance said...

Mary, I wondered the same thing, and I don't know! That's the short answer.

I thought maybe it is because the author of the book took the words from old sources, and that was the way the word was written in the text.

theregatha said...

to be or not to be.....was a major quandry for Hamlet. In one small phrase, Shakespeare made quite a mighty summary of a very vexing issue. Is our life quest embedded in be-ing or be-coming?

parlance said...

theregatha, I love that! Shakespeare summed it up. But then again, I guess he summed up most things in life.

It sometimes seems like there were no more stories to tell after he was through!