Sunday, April 22, 2007

Prolix v. Prolific

What a difference an x can make!

DD's wotd for today is prolix, a word I would not ordinarily consider using. Prolix just sounds hyper-pretentious, and wordy is sufficiently demeaning and verbose has a more neutral content. But it made me consider a word that I do use, prolific, just because they have the same initial sounds and a somewhat related usage. Could there be something more? No.

Prolix, therefore, derives from the Latin "pro" meaning "forward" and "liquere" as derived from "lixus" meaning "water". Thus, the etymology of water moving forward became "pouring forth", not just water, but as expanded to things that act like "water". At some point, though, the expansion got stuck with words. His first draft was always prolix and in need of good editing. Yes. The writer's meeting generated many prolix comedic ideas. Probably not, since prolix only has usage with words and writing, not ideas or word related tangibles or intangibles. And although I am a writer at heart, this word has an exceedingly limited usage.

Prolific, on the other hand, derives from the Latin "proles" meaning "offspring". Therefore, of course, prolific should mean not just the continued etymological meaning of producing offspring and fertility, but that it should be profuse! I bet a man made up that usage, just to keep a woman barefoot and prolific. [Ed. note: this is the converse of seminal, which is also a word I try to avoid.] She was prolific, producing yet another grandchild. This just sounds silly, although it is technically correct to the lesser usages. Her womb is prolific. Flowers are prolific in spring. Better. His demands were prolific of discord. Really poetic, technically correct and idiotic to state this way. Better to say his demands perpetuated discord. Plaintiff's counsel are good at manufacturing prolific litigation. Hmmm, yes, and it's not quite as offensive as I might find it otherwise since it is being applied to Plaintiff's counsel, who might better serve the legal community as barefoot and prolific. So, I think I shall abstain from using prolific except as it specifically refers to offspring, and use profuse or prodigious or some other word for the quality.

Alas, it seems today has been bereft of useful or good words, and now I feel violated and indignant.

4 comments:

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