Monday, March 16, 2009

In Praise of Ish

I was thinking about what a great thing 'ish' is. In fact, I suppose I should say it's great-ish. Just by adding 3 letters to the end of a word, that word immediately becomes ambiguous and vague. Is it cold outside? No, its cold-ish. Will we meet at six? No, let's hook up around six-ish. Hungry? Well, I am a bit peckish, not to mention puckish in my occasional mischievousness.

I wonder whether this is something that's peculiar to the English language and hence betrays a very English desire to skate over anything that sounds definite? Emily, my French-speaking wife, suggests there isn't a French equivalent.

Do other languages have 'ish'?


Jeremy said...

In Dutch you would have to add an additional word before or after. E.g. I'm a bit hungry. Let's meet around six.

Tristan said...

So we're a little more economical. Or lazy, depending on how you look at it.

Anonymous said...

The dutch are a good shout.

But only when they are speaking English and the word ends in an "iss" sound.

Lettuce = Lettish

Hit and miss = hit and mish

Also, it is a little known fact that way back in days of old, the inhabitants of Mercia didn't actually speak English.

They actually spoke in a more rudimentary and semantically pure tongue called "Engl"

But when those darn Jutes came over, with their rape and pillage, they affected the vernacular to such an extent that within a generation the powers that be said that the language that was being spoken could not truly be classified as "Engl" any more. At best it was Engl"ish"

Your post is therefore the most linguistically pertinent observation I have ever read.

Please accept this biscuit as a reward.


Tristan said...

Where's my biscuit? Is it nice-ish? And where does your take on history leave the Flemish?! Are they kind of a bit like dried up snot?

Steve said...

Is Constantinople a little bit Turkish?

Tristan said...

Ahhh, no - greek-ish - it became very Turkish indeed when the city fell and became Istanbul in 1450-ish.

This is turning into an episode of QI.

Steve said...

QI-ish? Or Quiche? Are you Stephen Fry-ish or am I Alan Davies-ish?

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