Q is for Quail

Coturnix japonica?
These lovely quails are marching across a planter.

Prefixes

quad—, quadr—, quadri— denote four of something, or a square.

quadrangle

quadrennium

quadrilateral

quadruped

quant— denotes a number of something or a measurement.

quantity

quantum

quart— denotes a fourth of something.

quarter

quartet (or quartette)

Exception:

The mineral quartz has a trigonal crystal form. The name is of Slavic origin.

quasi— means “as if” in Latin, but in English it now implies something that looks OK but is not quite right; “somewhat” or “almost.”

quasi-democratic

quasi-scientific

quasi-stellar object (a quasar)

quin— denotes the number five.

quinary

quincentenary (500th anniversary)

quintet

quintuplets

Suffixes

que in Latin words means “and”, but English words with this ending are usually (but not always) derived from French. The original Latin ending may have been —icus or
icare.

antique

appliqué

communiqué

grotesque [from Italian]

opaque

plaque [from Dutch]

Exercises

  1. Can you identify additional words to add to the lists of prefixes and suffixes?
  2. Use the words in sentences to clarify their meanings.

Special reading assignment

  1. Quail belong to the same family as partridges and pheasants.
  2. Quail eggs were sent to the Mir space station in 1990, where they were incubated and successfully hatched.

Q, q
Q was once a little quail,
Quaily
Faily
Daily
Quaily
Stumpy-taily
Little Quail!

— Edward Lear, The Complete Nonsense and Other Verse

 

Note: This blog post is an excerpt from a book, “English Manual: Letter by Letter,” to be published in the summer of 2015.

O is for Owl

Sculpture
Wordsworth the Owl can be found outside the library on Queen Street East in Toronto. Sculptor, Ludzer Vandermolen.

Prefixes

ob—, oc—, of—, op— mean “in the way of”, or “facing” and, usually, something in opposition or contrary. Notice that the c, f, and p are doubled.

obstruct

object

obvious

occasion

occult

occupy

offence [or offense]

offer

opponent

oppose

opposite

Special reading assignment

  1. Our one and only objective was to organize the office and outline the operation.
  2. Owls have broad wings, which allow them silent flight and more successful hunting.
  3. Otters have thick, waterproof fur. When they swim, hundreds of shiny, silver bubbles follow in their wake.

Note: This blog post is an excerpt from a book, English Manual: Letter by Letter, to be published in the summer of 2015.

L is for Lilies

Lilium sp.
This orange garden variety is similar to the wild wood lily.

Two verbs, to lie and to lay

The two verbs, to lie and to lay have different related meanings, although they are often used incorrectly, mostly because children are told never to lie.

To lie, aside from meaning to tell an untruth (“He lied about…”), is an intransitive verb, which means that it never takes a direct object. This verb involves only the subject.

I lie down. I laid down. I have lain down under the stars.

Please, lie here on the blanket.

To lay is a transitive verb and must have a direct object, although the object may be only understood, rather than stated. A direct object generally answers the question “What?”. That is, you have to lay something down.

What did you lay down there?

I lay the pen down. I laid it here. I have laid it down.

Please lay the blanket on the grass.

Most verbs may be used as both transitive and intransitive. That is why you need a certain self-discipline to distinguish between lie and lay. Most times it doesn’t matter to anyone, but other times it may.

 

Some L words

lady

lawn

leave

left

lying, laying

like

lip

loose

lose

love

 

Fun L words

labyrinth

lachrymose

lackadaisical

lacklustre

limousine

liquidate

 

Exercises

  1. Create sentences using the verbs, to lie and to lay. Remember that you have to lay something down.
  2. Read the lists of L words and create a sentence for each. Make sure that you know the meaning of each word.

 

Special reading assignment

  1. The lady lay all the lemons in a line; only a little lime was lost. Did the lady lie about the lime?

 

  1. “Now I lay me down to sleep.”

— From a children’s bedtime prayer, circa 1711.

K is for Kayak

These kayaks are waiting for someone to launch them into the lake.
These kayaks are waiting for someone to launch them into the lake.

K is for key

Key has several meanings to explore, including some of the following:

The item needed to open a lock.

door key

Levers used to play an instrument or operate a typewriter or computer.

piano key

The seed or samara of a maple or ash tree.

maple key

The description or list explaining parts of a diagram or map.

key

The basis for a solution to a code or the exact access point to a place.

key

A botanical key is a system for the identification of similar species of plants, usually based on a series of questions that narrows down your choices. Using such a key, you can eventually figure out what kind of plant you have found, down to the exact name of the species.

Botanical Key

Plant with no leaves or with leaves?

Divided leaves or entire leaves?

Divided leaves with narrow segments or leaflets?

Leaflets of three, five, seven, or more parts?

Exercises

  1. Can you think of other kinds of keys?

Special reading assignment

  1. Wikipedia defines kite as a tethered aircraft. There is also a bird called a kite; a sort of raptor that may be found soaring in the sky in India.
  2. Have you tried a kayak or a canoe? Which do you prefer? Why is that?

 

K is for Kale

Flowering kale does not mind a bit of frost.
Flowering kale does not mind a bit of frost.

The sounds of K

The letter K is an aspirant, the same as a hard C. Some words may be spelled with either a C or a K. Note that there is a difference in meaning between the words, karat, carat, and caret. The words disk and disc are also used for different things.

kaftan, caftan

kaboodle, caboodle

kalamata, calamata (olives)

kerb [British], curb [N. American]

ketchup, catsup [US]

King Knut, King Canute

skeptic, sceptic

disk, disc

CK letter combination

In some words, a K is combined with a C to indicate a hard C, where the adjacent vowels might make a soft C.

brick, bricked

fleck, flecked

 

Silent Ks

At the beginnings of words, K is silent before an N.

These Ks were pronounced in Old English, in the times of Chaucer and still sometimes in the times of Shakespeare. The change came sometime in the 16th and 17th centuries, because it was easier to say the words without the K.

knack

knapsack

knead

knee, kneel

knick-knack

knife

knit

knob

knock, knocker

knot

know, knowledge

In German, Swedish, and Dutch, similar words have kept the K sound. Some foreign names also keep the K sound.

Knesset [Israeli parliament]

Knossos [Minoan Crete city]

 

Double Ks

Double Ks are unusual in English.

bookkeeper

Unusual K words

daikon

eke

feckless

haiku

mukluk

polka

mucky muck

plankton 

Exercises

  1. In a book, newspaper, or webpage, pick out words beginning with K. How do pronounce them?
  2. Make up your own sentence with a lot of Ks. Is it a true alliteration?
  3. Look up the “Unusual K Words” to find their meanings.

Special reading assignments

The knave was keen to kiss the knuckles of the king and to kick the knees of the knights.

J is for Jellyfish

Aurelia aurita, medusa stage
These moon jellyfish create an eerie display in the Australasia Pavilion at the Toronto Zoo.

Prefixes

Judeo— refers to Jews or something Jewish, or something in addition to Judaism

Judeo-Christian

junct— stands for join

junction, conjunction, disjunction 

jur— stands for law or justice

juror

jurisdiction

juxta— near or alongside

juxtaposition

 

Suffixes

ject creates verbs meaning to throw something

eject

interject

project

jud refers to law

judgment (or judgement)

judicial

judiciary

jugal refers to a yoke

conjugal

junct refers to a joining

junction, conjunction, disjunction

juncture

juven refers to young

juvenile

rejuvenate

Exercises

  1. Look in a dictionary and count the number of pages devoted to the letters J, Z, Q, and X.
  2. Why are there so few prefixes and suffixes starting with the letter J?
  3. Look on the Internet for a description of the juvenile stage of jellyfish.

Special reading assignment

  1. “Jumping Jehoshephat” is an oath taken from the story of a great king in the Bible.         — from 2 Chronicles 20
  2.  The jackal is a species of wild dog found in Africa and is rather similar to the North American coyote.
  3.  The moon jellyfish, pictured, is the adult or medusa stage of Aurelia aurita.

 

I is for Ichneumon Wasp

Family Ichneumonidae
Ichneumon wasps come in all sizes and a variety of colours. The long “tail” is an ovipositor.

 Prefixes

il— means before

ileum

ill— means not

illegible, illusion 

im— means before

impulse, improve

in— also means not

inability, inconsistent

in— or it could mean into

income, influx, ingrain, invite

infra— below

infrared, infrastructure 

inter— among, between

interchange, interfere, interlude

irr— means not

irregular, irresistible

iso— same

isomer, isosceles

Exercises

  1. Look at the list of examples of prefixes. Can you add a suffix onto any of them to create different words?
  2. Can you think of suffixes that start with the letter I?

Special reading assignment

  1. His interest is in iconography.
  2. Going into the interior, his instrument indicated that a new installation is important.