Tuesday, September 1, 2009


The other night, quite out of the blue, one of my friends said, "if you can regurgitate something, why can't you gurgitate it?" This led us to discuss a few other "words" that lose their meaning when you remove the "re-" prefix, the funniest of which (after "gurgitate") was "peat" (as in, "I already peated it once, don't make me repeat it.").

I have since thought up a few more:
  • lease/release
  • quire/require
  • main/remain
  • duce/reduce
  • tard/retard (not in the really un-PC way, but the "to impede" way)
  • linquish/relinquish
  • buke/rebuke

I think I'm going to try a few of these out in normal conversation, just to see the reactions I get. Now if you'll excuse me, I think it's time to gurgitate my breakfast . . .


Lori said...

We have these conversations around here a lot. I teach a Vietnamese woman English and she's asked me the same questions (different words). It makes you wonder, doesn't it?

I know how you feel. I'm trying to reduce my weight, but it just keeps ducing on me.

Steve Smith said...

I have membered (and subsequently remembered) that I've often thought the same thing about 'let' at the end of words.

Many words use it to denote something smaller than the description of the original word, such as a booklet as opposed to a book. Other examples are leaflet and tartlet.

I like to play with language by adding letters to the start or end of words in order to change their meaning. If it's preceded by a word similar to the word you mean, it almost makes sense! For example, I might get in the car and go on a traversing triplet. Triplet means something else, but you get the idea because 'traversing' backs up what you think I might mean by 'trip'.

If you like this sort of thing, you'll like my new book - Beat About The Bush: The Funny Side of Language - by Phil Woods and Steve Smith. We discuss the funny things we all say in everyday life.

hugh.c.mcbride said...

I realize that I'm a bit late to the party on this one (& I can't say I'm particularly proud to be in possession of the nugget of knowledge I'm about to drop on y'all here), but some on the professional eating circuit refer to the competitors as "gurgitators."

Also, years ago I recall seeing a guy on Letterman's "Stupid Human Tricks" segment who swallowed light bulbs, the "burped" 'em back up again without breaking or otherwise damaging them. His performance name? The Human Gurgitator.

You don't know *how* good it feels to *finally* have a reason to share this information with the world ... :-)

Amie said...

Thanks for sharing, all!