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Welcome to issue #48  of  Words Matter , our bi-weekly newsletter .  Please feel free to share with a friend! 
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Affix Wonderment

Word-lovers (logophiles) enjoy wondering all kinds of things about words.  My friend Jerry wondered the other day whether there are any prefixes that can also be used as suffixes (or, conversely, suffixes that can also be used as prefixes).

As you know, a prefix is a meaningful word unit attached on the front (pre-fixed) of a word.  Can that same prefix also be attached to the end (or bottom--sub-fixed) of a word?

Of course a word can start and end with the same letters: decade, unspun, retire, entanglement, and many more--but you know your morphics, and you know that these aren't examples of both the prefix and the suffix being the same.

The word enlighten appears to have an identical prefix and suffix, but we know from several previous newsletters that morphemes can look the same but be entirely different in meaning and origin (remember our example of the word bat).  The prefix en- means in, and the suffix -en means to cause to become.  So that's not an example of what we're looking for.

Let's look at a morpheme that shows up sometimes as a prefix and sometimes at the end of words: the morpheme poly.  Aside from hundreds of chemistry words, we have polygamy (multiple simultaneous marriages), polyglot (someone who speaks many languages), polygon (a figure with many angles), polysyllabic (having many syllables--like polysyllabic!), polychromatic  (having many colors), and so on.  Poly is a prefix.
In a few words, however, we see poly at the end of words: monopoly (one person or company in charge of many things), duopoly (you can figure that out), oligopoly (a few people in charge of many things), and so forth.  Yet although it's at the end, poly serves as a root for the words rather than a suffix.  So that's not an example of what we're looking for, either.

Just out of curiosity, if there can be an oligopoly, is there a polypoly ("many people in charge of many things")?  Yes, here IS (pronounced puh-LIP-o-lee). Polypoly  is close to what we're looking for, though its applied meaning is not what you'd expect (look it up for yourselves  in a business or law dictionary).

Another aside (as always happens when you're curious about words), what about the word polyp?  You morphics experts know that poly can't be a prefix here because if we remove it from the word polyp, we are left with a meaningless letter p.  But if you trace the origin of the word polyp, you'll find that it is a shortening of the word polypus (we talked about octopus in the last newsletter), because it looks like a many-footed growth.  So here poly is a prefix and the root has been abbreviated.  That can happen (think of mic, a shortening of microphone).

We'll keep thinking and looking out.  Modern word coinages that play with the same prefixes and suffixes are bound to happen.  Meanwhile, can YOU think of any?  Have fun.  --R.D. "Doc" Larrick

This brief student video comes directly from WordBuildonLine Foundations Level 3 . 

The suffix EN (verb)
The suffix EN (verb)

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