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Welcome to issue #53  of  Words Matter , our bi-weekly newsletter .  Please feel free to share with a friend! 
Here's the good stuff.
Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers!

Maybe you've noticed that we have the word pair four and fourteen, and the pair six and sixteen, but the pair three and thirteen rather than threeteen.

The pair three and thirteen is an example of sound and spelling trickery that sometimes occurs in languages.  There is a switch or reversal of two sounds or letters:  r-vowel in three becomes vowel-r in thirteen --and in thirty .

You may have gone a bit 
far with your backwards placement!
This trick in language is called metathesis (with the stress accent on the A).  The prefix meta has various meanings, among them after, behind, backwards or beyond (as in metaphysics, metamorphic, metaphor, metabolism and a hundred or so others).  The root thes means to put or place (as in synthesis, prosthesis, antithesis, and parenthesis).  The word metathesis , then, means "backwards placement".

Sometimes metathesis is simply a matter of a mixup or slip of the tongue or pen, as when someone reverses sounds or letters.  An example is confusing the word cavalry, a band of horsemen, with Calvary (from Latin for skull), the hill outside Jerusalem.  Sometimes the reversal of a vowel and a neighboring consonant leads to a non-standard mispronunciation, as when someone says nu-cu-lar for the word nuclear.


You get bonus points if 
you know what this is. 
Metathesis can also become standard accepted spelling and pronunciation, as when we say Wends-day but spell it Wednesday.  There are hundreds of examples of the spelling final -le: article, little, title, etc., all pronounced as if -el instead of -le.  Similarly, we may see artsy or commercial final -re even when pronounced -er, as in Towne Centre or Theatre District.  These reflect the original spellings of the roots, from Greek kentron and theatron

Other examples in English reveal historical dialectical differences.  The old Anglo-Saxon form brenn reversed to modern burn.  The word bird was once spelled and pronounced brid.  The words work and wrought are cousins.  The old English aksian, to question, reversed the k and s in some dialects to become askian.

Be careful to not 
brenn the brid!

I mentioned the root morph above, and as you know, WordBuild is about morphology, the study of the smallest meaningful pieces of words.  A reversal of the first and the last sounds of the root morph /morf/ gave rise to the root form.  When a caterpillar metamorphoses, its "after-form" is the butterfly.  Aren't words amazing? 
--R.D. "Doc" Larrick

Enjoy this brief student video on the root FORM that comes directly from WordBuildonLine Elements Level 1. 

The root FORM
The root FORM

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