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Welcome to issue #36  of  Words Matter , our bi-weekly newsletter .  Please feel free to share with a friend! 
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Surprising Kinships

You have certainly at some time in your life spotted two guys and exclaimed, "They are surely brothers--they look so much alike".  On other occasions, you may learn that so-and-so are distant cousins, and then notice a bodily gesture or facial expression or a glance in the eye and see a similarity that wasn't apparent initially.

Words, like people, carry shared traits with their relatives.  Just as there are many families of people, there are many families of words.  Learning about the shared traits in words (especially the semantic, or meaningful, traits) is akin to genetic mapping of the human chromosomes.  Observing how a shared word characteristic pops up in a variety of different words is how WordBuild makes words and literacy fun, exciting, and full of surprises.

We'll look today at a few of the hundreds of family traits in words .  On the "they-just-have-to-be-related" level,  there are many word siblings in English.  We have discussed some of these in this column before, referring to the dual nature of English with its German mama and its Latin papa, plus some Greek, Native American, Celtic , Slavic, or African aunts and uncles as well.

Take the words regal and royal, for example.  They look so much alike, and they have a meaningful relationship as well.  They just have to be related.  And indeed they are, called, not siblings, but cognates, "born together" from the Latin root reg-.

Another example of such an easy-to-spot relationship exists with the words shirt and skirt, "born together" from a Germanic root meaning "cut short".

Related words that are less immediate to spot provide some wonderful surprises.  The words brief,  merry, embrace, and pretzel are all cousins to one another!  Who knew?  The connecting strand of linguistic DNA, so to speak, is a root meaning "short".

Brief fits in right away.  An early use of the word merry (as in "a merry pace") meant "quick and lively".  Our shorter arm bone was (and is) called the brachium, origin of the words bracelet and embrace ("to enfold in the arm").  The pretzel is named for its short arm-like, embracing branches

One more.  Sugar and crocodile.  "No way", you may say.  But yes:  at the root of the word sugar is the meaning "small rock or pebble".  The first part of the word crocodile is from that same root, which in Greek is kroke, "pebble".  The -dile part of crocodile is from a Greek word for "worm" or "crawler".  The next time you see a crocodile, by sugar, I hope you will see it for what it is: a pebbly-skinned crawler.  --R.D. "Doc" Larrick

Enjoy this brief student video that comes directly from WordBuildonLine  Elements Level 2. 

The root FLEX
The root FLEX

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