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Welcome to issue #55 of Words Matter, our bi-weekly newsletter. Please feel free to share with a friend!
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Student Touhy asked me what it meant "to ork" something. "Does it mean "to scare"?" I guessed he was thinking of the evil goblins in Lord of the Rings, but other than that, I wasn't familiar with the term "ork". Of course that didn't mean there wasn't such a word--the world of words never fails to surprise and delight.
Touhy added helpfully, "It must be something somebody might do to an animal, especially a cow," Now I was really intrigued. "Where did you learn that?" I ventured. He pointed out a word: "It says right here: COWORKER."
The way Touhy dealt with that word was brilliant, actually--he saw that the
-er at the end made a word meaning "someone who does the action", and he recognized cow as a compound word piece, as in cowboy or cowhide or cowshed. And he knew that after he sifted out the familiar pieces of the word, he was left with just one more piece to figure out: ork.
Tuohy had the right questions, but all he had to do was take another look and divide the word coworker another way. Then he'd see that the three pieces (or morphemes) in the word were not cow, ork, and er, but rather co, work, and er. Of course he was just "pulling my leg" and having some fun with language.
Finding a word's intended meaningful pieces is an important key to becoming an independent reader. Yet identifying those morphemes can sometime be tricky and amusing. Remember our discussion about the word number? Is that the word having to do with counting, or is it the comparative of the adjective numb? Say the word resent. You might stress the second syllable and picture in your mind "to be angry with", or maybe you stressed both syllables equally to see the word as "mailed a letter again".
Try one more: unionized. Maybe you see the word union and interpret the word as "made into a unified group": union-ized. Or maybe you see ion, "a charged particle", and the prefix un-, meaning "not": un-ion-ized.
Problems like this aren't terribly common, but on occasion readers might divide a word up into misleading pieces. They'll usually be able to back up and recalculate, as the GPS voice says. Touhy and other morpheme-trained readers know how it works and how to have some fun. --R.D. "Doc" Larrick
Enjoy this brief student video on the root CENTR that comes directly from WordBuildonLine Elements Level 3.
The root CENTR
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