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Wordy Weekly XII

Okay, so we have come to ‘J’. Well, this could be a bit of a problem. No ‘J’ in either the Greek or Latin alphabet. However, the letter that became our ‘J’ certainly IS in both alphabets. The letter ‘I’ has two roles in Latin and Greek. Lucky ‘I’. It is both a vowel and a consonant, a vowel as in ‘iatros’ (in Greek, see last week), ‘in’ or ‘infernus’ in Latin.

But it also a consonant with the sound ‘y’. So, here we find plenty of lovely derivatives for ‘J’, and I am throwing in another suffix, too.

So, first to Greek.

i) JOT: This comes from the Greek word ‘iota’. Yes, the ninth letter of the Greek alphabet morphed into a word beginning with ‘J’ in English. ‘JOT’, the noun appears in such phrases as, ‘I shan’t envy her a jot!’ One can also say, although it is a little more old-fashioned now, ‘I received not one iota of praise for my efforts’.

ii) JOKE: A favourite word of many I am sure, certainly mine, and yes, it comes from Latin. ‘IOCUS’ (or jest). JOKE’S cognate words such as ‘jocular’ (a lovely word, and sadly too little used nowadays), meaning ‘humorous, jokey’. One can also compare the Italian GIOCARE meaning ‘to play’.

iii) -JACENT: the suffix simply means ‘lying’, as in ‘being situated/being in a particular position’. It is most commonly seen in the word ‘ADJACENT’ meaning ‘lying next to’. The suffix derives from the Latin verb ‘IACEO’ ‘to lie (down)’, specifically the present participle ‘IACENS’.

Does that mean a ship lying near the Golden Fleece is ‘JACENT and the Argonauts’? Oh nevermind!

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