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Welcome to issue #33 of  Words Matter, our bi-weekly newsletter .  Please feel free to share with a friend! 
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An Itty Bitty Continuation

In the previous newsletter, we looked at a variety of suffixes called diminutives, those morphemes that mean "little" or "endearing".  Today we will take one final look at a large category of diminutives that have come into English directly from Latin.

The most common diminutive suffix in Latin was -ulus (or -ula or -ulum, depending on gender), and we now have quite a few English words that are unchanged from the Latin.  Many of these are scientific terminology but are highly familiar: cumulus clouds (little mounds), pendulum (little weight), flagellum (little whip), calculus (little pebble for counting), curriculum (little course), and stimulus (little spur).

The funiculum (little rope: nerve fibers in the spine)and jugulum (in the throat) are among many body part names.  Spatula (little blade) and formula (a little shape) are well-known, as is the "little dragon" of horror fame, Dracula.

Non-scientific English had little use, however,  for the gender distinction of -ulus or -ula or -ulum, so the suffix appears in many words, reduced to -ule.  You won't have any difficulty recognizing that these words mean small versions of their root: cellule, nervule, lobule, glandule, nodule, tubule, valvule, sporule, zonule, spherule.

If you are a little familiar with Latin roots, you will know that an ovule is a small egg, that ridicule is a little laugh, and that ductule is a small passageway.  Applying a principle that WordBuild stresses, you will wonder what a schedule is (it's originally a little slip of paper) 

or a  molecule  (a tiny mass of matter).  What we call big letters (capitals) and little letters are officially called majuscules and  miniscules .

Typically, words tend to simplify.  Not only did -ulus reduce to -ule, but in a cluster of English words, the old Latin diminutive now appears simply as -le.  You can picture in your mind the diminutive nature of a cubicle, a buckle, or a particle.  Did you know that that pesky cuticle is a tiny piece of skin?

I don't like to end this little opuscule on a dreary note, but two disease names are morphologically, diminutively remarkable.  You will notice the -ul- in the word diverticulitis--that's an inflammation ("itis") of a little bend ("side-turn") in the abdomen.  Then there's shingles.  No one is sure where the word shingle (as in a roof shingle) comes from, but the painful, inflamed discomfort of shingles is a development from the word cingulum, "little belt", named for the pattern that the disorder often has around a person's waist.  On that note I'll sidle away.  See you in two weeks!  --R.D. "Doc" Larrick

Enjoy this brief student video that comes directly from WordBuild Foundations Level 3. 
The suffix ARY
The suffix ARY

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