Have you ever wondered about the word flutter?
Flutter appears to have been around since we started calling our language English. Linguists refer to flutter as a frequentative verb. This particular sort of verb is built from a verb that communicates a single action. The frequentative verb communicates that same action, repeated. Flutter’s parent verb is float. With a bit of imagination we can see how fluttering is a bit like floating over & over again.
Ripple came to English in the 1400s from the word rip. It hadn’t previously occurred to me that ripples in a stream could be perceived as many, many rips in the water’s surface.
In the 1580s, the parent verb drip gave us the frequentative verb dribble. Soccer players applied this word to their sport as early as 1863, & it made its way onto the basketball court by 1892, only one year after the “invention” of the sport.
To sway from side to side, as a duck does, is to waddle. Given the definition, it’s no surprise that waddle’s parent verb is wade. Waddle appeared in English in the 1590s.
Another frequentative word that came about in the 1590s is puzzle. We can see the associated shade of meaning in its parent verb, pose within the phrase pose a riddle.
Straddle is most likely a frequentative form of the verb stride. English users first wrote straddle about 1560.
The 1590s brought us the wonderful figurative word muddle, frequentative of mud. It seems likely that muddle initially meant to bathe in mud, then by the 1600s, muddle picked up its figurative meaning, to destroy the clarity of.
The frequentative verb ogle appeared in writing in the 1680s & comes from the OId English word for eye, oege.
Frequentatives abound! Even as I finish this entry, I feel more posts on this theme bubbling under the surface of my blogworthy self.
Had any of you heard of frequentatives? Any thoughts on them?
Big thanks to this week’s sources: Wordnik, Etymonline & the OED.
I write for teens, narrate audio books, bake bread, play music, and ponder the wonder of words in a foggy little town on California's central coast.
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