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Welcome to issue #32 of  Words Matter, our bi-weekly newsletter .  Please feel free to share with a friend! 
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An Itty Bitty Lesson

One of the best results from learning about morphemes (the smallest parts of words that contain meaning) is that you start noticing patterns in words.  Then a pattern among one group of words leads to another pattern in another group of words, and before long, you catch yourself reading a dictionary for pleasure.

A pattern in English words that starts from our earliest years is the tendency to add -ie or -y to primary words: mommy, daddy, kittie, doggie, cookie.  We alter names to Tommy, Eddie, Judy, Franny.  We'll say someone is a cutie or call a song an oldie.  You'll think of many, many more throughout your day.  

The suffix you're adding to those words and names is called a diminutive.  You'll notice a similarity with the words minus, diminish, miniature, minute (meaning small).  A diminutive suffix makes a word that means a smaller version, or more endearing--softer and gentler, or perhaps younger.

Another such suffix in English is -ling.  We call a young duck and goose a duckling and gosling.  A hireling is temporary or may do minor jobs.  We've all been endeared to the waitress who calls us darling (usually with the final g dropped--darlin'): it's nice to be called a "dear little thing" every now and then.

Another diminutive suffix in English is -let, as in a droplet (a "little drop"), booklet, and bracelet or anklet ("little thing on the arm or ankle"); a little brief period of success is called a boomlet.

Since English is so heavily made from other languages, there are of course other wonderful diminutives.  Who hasn't enjoyed "little ribbons" (fettuccini) and "little wheels" (rotini) and "little gourds" (zucchini) and, oh yum, "little tongues" (linguini)?  Cuisine words are rich with diminutives.  If you don't like linguini, try "little worms": vermicelli!   Mozzarella, paella ("little pan"), vanilla.

Then there's the name Cinderella, "little cinder girl", and that stirs up a list of such things as umbrella ("a little shadow"), novella (a "little novel"), and rubella ("little red measels") and salmonella (not from the fish but from Dr. Dan Salmon, who identified the bacterium in 1885).  That's how words work: the suffix added to the name made a word meaning "Dr. Salmon's little discovery".

We cannot overlook the diminutive -ette (a cousin of the -let suffix).  You know what these smaller versions are: kitchenette, towelette, cigarette, luncheonette, dinette, roomette.  A brunette is a "little brown-haired person"; a lunette is a little crescent- or moon-shaped window; a statuette and a sermonette....  I could stay all day and talk about words like these, but etiquette demands I let you go.  Wait.  Etiquette?  "little ticket"--the little permits that let you interact with the nicest people.  Now there is netiquette, a portmanteau for proper behavior on the "net".  Thank you, and I hope you have enjoyed this little WordBuild featurette.  Until next time (there's more on diminutives), have a great little day.
--R. D. "Doc" Larrick

Enjoy this brief student video that comes directly from WordBuild Elements Level 3. 
The root VIV
The root VIV

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