Daily Archives: February 25, 2011


“They used a hyphen in wake up, the verb!” Margot exclaimed. “How do they propose to spell wake him up, then? As wake hyphen him hyphen up?”

Daryl rolled his eyes and looked around the coffee shop to see if other eyes were turning yet. “Happy Friday afternoon,” he said, raising his latte in mock toast.

“Come on,” Margot protested. “These things matter.”

“You are more apt than most people to begroan other people’s usage,” Daryl said.

Margot’s eyes popped wide. “It would be very apt to bemoan your use of a non-word!”

Moan, groan… how do you know begroan’s not a word?” Daryl said. He had pulled out his iPad and was tapping away at it.

“You meant bemoan,” Margot said.

“If I’d meant bemoan I would have said bemoan,” Daryl said with a flicker of a fake smile.

“Come, now,” I said, “can’t we be groan-ups? He used it, you understood it, it’s a word.”

“A word you won’t find in any dictionary,” Margot said.

“That may be,” Daryl muttered, continuing to manipulate his iPad, “or that may not be. …A-ha!” He turned his iPad to Margot. It displayed the be-, prefix entry from the Oxford English Dictionary, scrolled to show “begroan v. to groan at” with a citation from 1837. Margot was nonplussed, or should I say bemused. “Pity there’s no entry for be-hatch,” Daryl said, “’cause I done be-hatched this on you, be-hatch!” He made the sort of hip-hop-style hand gesture that cretins from “reality TV” shows are fond of.

I took the iPad from him and started scrolling through the very long entry. “Boy, someone’s been busy as a bee with all the be’s.”

“But it doesn’t even make sense,” Margot protested, gesturing to the list. “I mean, a lot of these words have nothing to do with being something. When you think of become, that’s ‘come to be’, right? And bemoaning is to be moaning, and bejewelled is to be with jewels, and so on.”

“I think you’ll have to leave that one by,” I said. “The prefix be- is not from the verb be, it’s from the preposition by. So adding be can add the sense of ‘about’, ‘around’, or ‘throughout’; from that it took on a broader use as an intensifier, and also came to signify result – as in bedimmed – or object bestowed – as in bewigged – or an instrumental relation, as in bewitch.” I started idly humming the tune from the TV show Bewitched as I continued to scroll.

“Oh, would you bequiet… yourself?” Margot grumbled.

“Perhaps you could becalm… yourself,” I replied with a little smirk, and launched into another musical snippet: “Let it be, let it be…”

“Behave,” Margot said.

“I’m being as have as I can,” I said, giggling. Margot leaned over to look at what was in my cup.

“Perhaps,” said Daryl, “you could bestow my iPad upon me, so I can be stowing it in my bag.”

“Here you be,” I said, handing it over. I turned to Margot, lifting my cup. “I only wish I were beliquored.”

“You can’t be telling me that’s a word,” Margot said.

Daryl lifted an index finger and scrolled quickly on the page. “Ah… yep. ‘Beliquor, verb, to soak with liquor, to alcoholize.'”

Margot slouched back in her chair and threw her hands up. “I’m beleaguered.” She reached for her coffee and slugged the rest of it back.

Here is a small sampling of the frankly enormous list of words included under the OED’s be- entry:

* be-aureoled
* beballed
* be-belzebubbed
* beblear
* be-blockhead
* bebutterfly
* becivet
* becomma
* becrawl
* becupolaed
* becurse
* bediamonded
* bediaper
* bedinner
* bedrug
* beduchess
* beduck
* befetter
* befezzed
* beflogged
* befrounce
* befurbelowed
* beglitter
* begruntle
* behearse
* bejumble
* be-Legion-of-Honoured
* bemadam
* bemissionary
* benightmare
* beprank
* bepreach
* berailroaded
* bereason
* beschoolmaster
* bescutcheon
* beshag
* beshriek
* beslime
* beslipper
* besnowball
* besoothe
* besqueeze
* bestink
* besugar
* beswelter
* bethunder
* bethwack
* betipple
* betired
* betwattle
* beulcer
* beuncled
* bevomit
* bewhistle
* beworm

I would like to thank my lovely wife, Aina Arro, for using the word begroan today, inspiring this note.


You would think worship is a fairly straightforward thing, no? Especially for monotheists? Well, yea and nay. Some sects manage to keep it fairly lean and consistent. Others have levels and a sort of a trail from being duly devoted to venerable beings to the full-on worship of the supreme deity. And if the distinction is serviceable, and the services are distinct, it is maintained.

Well, at least in theory. Or even in practice, but not necessarily with the terminology. You tell me – or ask any Roman Catholic you know: do you know what latria, dulia, and hyperdulia are?

Well, given the context, you might guess that they’re levels of devotion. But now tell me which sounds like a greater level to you. Does dulia sound more duly devoted, or duller and diluted? Does latria lean towards lateral, or lætare (rejoice), or some kind of idle latria, or maybe even a latrine? We can guess that hyperdulia is like dulia but moreso…

Well, I’ll tell you. The one that is suited for the ritual of the liturgy is latria. (And if you’re doing it in a narthex, you could call it atrial latria – and, if you’re a catechuman, it may be a trial atrial latria too.) Dulia is what is due to saints and angels – a lower level of veneration. And for the bonus prize, hyperdulia is… anyone? We’re talking about Catholicism here: who’s better than the other saints but not as high as God? Give yourself a point if you said Mary.

Now, some other sects of Christianity see the veneration of saints (even of Mary) as idolatry, a rather idle latria, one might say; some even proscribe images, iconography, and other such forms – they become cross if they see more than a cross. I won’t dive further into the theology of the dispute, but I will say that the word for the form of worship that is the worship of forms (idle forms), that idol latria, is well formed as idolatry. You see, idolatry comes from Greek εἰδωλολατρεία eidololatreia, from εἴδωλον eidolon “likeness, idea, fancy” (from εἶδος eidos “form”) and λατρεία latreia “worship, service to God” – that’s the same latreia that is the origin of latria.

Dulia’s Greek source, δουλεία douleia, also refers to service, by the way, but it’s bonded servitude, as in what a slave does. An inferior kind of service, to be sure, but the word has evidently escaped the bonds of “ownership” – you don’t belong to the saints in Catholic theology.

The word latria is a fine enough word, anyway, with its light Latinate sound licking on the tip of the tongue; it almost sounds like something one might produce in a spree of glossolalia. It’s certainly more singable in its way than worship, though worship has its place in many more hymns.