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Dwindle

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Dwindle

Postby Dr. Goodword » Wed Dec 18, 2013 12:04 am

• dwindle •


Pronunciation: dwin-dêl • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, intransitive

Meaning: To gradually decrease in size, number, or importance; wane, wither, become smaller and smaller.

Notes: This word is purely English, so we would expect all its lexical relatives to have English suffixes. The participle dwindling serves as both adjective and noun. We even have rare instances of the personal noun, dwindler, as someone who dwindles in his or her size.

In Play: We are most familiar with this word used with numbers: "The number of cookies is dwindling shockingly fast before the party this weekend." However, it may be used with size, too: "Marjory has dwindled to practically nothing on her new diet." It may also be used in reference to stature: "Jerry Mander was a statesman at the beginning of his career in office, but later dwindled into a demagogue."

Word History: Today's word is the frequentative of Middle English dwinen "to waste away" from Old English dwinan "to shrink". A frequentative verb is one that indicates a repeated action, rather than a continuous one. It is clearly related to Dutch verdwijnen "to disappear". The original root of this word, dheu- "to die", was the same as the root of die, dead, and death in English. Archaic Swedish dåna "swoon, faint" shares the same origin. This word seems to be mainly Germanic, though traces of it appear in some Celtic languages, for example, Old Irish duine and Breton den "man"; could these have developed from the sense of "mortal"? (Let's not allow our gratitude to Eric Berntson ever dwindle for recommending today's Good Word.)
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Re: Dwindle

Postby MTC » Thu Dec 19, 2013 2:54 am

Doc points out, and other authorities agree, frequentative verbs express repeated--not continuous action. Yet in actual practice
frequentatives sometimes do express continuous action. Take the idiom "Time dwindles," or "Time dwindles down," for instance. "Time" is not a count noun; it cannot be counted. We commonly think of time as continuous, not as a succession or repetition of small increments. So the expression "Time dwindles" expresses a continuous diminution of Time--not a repeated action. True, clocks work by measuring out countable seconds and fractions thereof, but Time itself is conceived of as continuous, a fundamental property its measurement into discrete units does not alter. Though some theorists challenge this notion, it remains the prevailing view I believe.
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Re: Dwindle

Postby Philip Hudson » Thu Dec 19, 2013 12:47 pm

Iin the Texas hinterlands one frequently hears dwine used for dwindle.

Thomas Hardy used the word small as a verb in a conversation. He was challenged by someone that small wasn't a verb. He opened the Oxford Unabridged. Sure enough, the word small was given a verb definition. It meant to dwindle or appear to dwindle. The reference quotation was atributed to Thomas Hardy. He had written, "The ship smalled in the distance."
It is dark at night, but the Sun will come up and then we can see.
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Re: Dwindle

Postby MTC » Thu Dec 19, 2013 9:32 pm

Philip Hudson wrote: Thomas Hardy...had written, "The ship smalled in the distance."


The ship Hardy described was transiting "the offing:"

Definition of OFFING

1
: the part of the deep sea seen from the shore
2
: the near or foreseeable future <in the offing>
See offing defined for English-language learners »
See offing defined for kids »
Examples of OFFING

<major changes are in the offing for the company>
Origin of OFFING

1off
First Known Use: 1608

Merriam-Webster
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Re: Dwindle

Postby Philip Hudson » Fri Dec 20, 2013 2:29 am

MTC: Thanks for the expansion of this discussion. At the moment, I have nothing else in the offing.
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Re: Dwindle

Postby Philip Hudson » Fri Dec 20, 2013 2:50 am

September Song sung by Old Blue Eyes hisself:

"Oh, the days dwindle down to a precious few
September, November
And these few precious days I'll spend with you
These precious days I'll spend with you."
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wte1uk4A5eU
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Re: Dwindle

Postby William Hupy » Fri Dec 20, 2013 10:09 am

I used this word last Saturday in a text message. That provoked a thought as to whether there is a word for a word with two or more consonants in which the consonants are pronounced, unlike, say, the "th" in "the" or the "sw" in "sword", unless you like to cause derision among your friends and pronounce words like knife, sword and knock giving full force to all consonants. Which provokes another discussion: why is the word phonetic, not?
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Re: Dwindle

Postby Philip Hudson » Fri Dec 20, 2013 12:57 pm

William Hupy: English is only partly phonetic. Chinese is totally not phonetic. If you study Chinese, which I have only enquired about, you will find that those wild symbols do describe a word by combining smaller symbols. Spanish claims to be phonetic and is more so than English, but not as much as they would have you believe.

How would we conduct spelling reform? Would we want to change every document ever written in English to the reformed spelling? It could be done with computers. Would people like that? Here's a hint. When the RSV Bible was printed, in modern English, it caused a revolution in many churches that were used to the KJV. With all the new Bible translations, the rancor will never stop. Personally, if the KJV was good enough for Peter and Paul, it is good enough for me. :D While I agree with the Good Doctor that differences in English speech are slowly disappearing, just try to talk with an Indian who learned English as his native language created from a transmogrified British accent. If you are a Yankee, sit yourself down in the Texas hinterlands and see if you don’t stick out like a sore thumb.

Non-phonetic spellings have their use. There are many examples. Desert has one s and dessert has two. They are pronounced differently and mean different things. As a child I was taught that dessert has a double s because it deserves it, being nicer than a desert.

English spelling reform is out of the question.
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Re: Dwindle

Postby LukeJavan8 » Fri Dec 20, 2013 1:06 pm

Experienced the same in Plymouth, England, when talking
with five boys diving from a place called, the Hoe.
When they talked slowly I could understand, albeit sometimes
with having to 'translate', but when they talked fast among
themselves it "was all Greek to me".
-----please, draw me a sheep-----
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Re: Dwindle

Postby William Hupy » Fri Dec 20, 2013 1:10 pm

Philip. I agree. However, the main thrust of my inquiry was the word that describes a word that contains two or more consonants that are pronounced. We have diphthong for vowels. Is there a diphthong for consonants? Interesting also that diphthong does not have one. That just now occurred to me.
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Re: Dwindle

Postby Perry Lassiter » Fri Dec 20, 2013 11:34 pm

Do you pronounce the word dip-thong or dif-thong? I seldom hear the H around here.
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Re: Dwindle

Postby William Hupy » Sat Dec 21, 2013 9:58 am

DIP. Perry, I'm not making a derogatory comment about you, just indicating how I pronounce diphthong.
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Re: Consonants

Postby Audiendus » Sat Dec 21, 2013 10:40 am

Apparently a group of two or more consecutive consonant sounds (which may or may not correspond to the same number of consonant letters) is called a "consonant cluster" or "consonant blend". A group of two or more consonant letters that is pronounced as a single sound is called a "consonant digraph".

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consonant_blend

So the word "diphthong" contains one consonant cluster (phth) and two digraphs (ph, th).

(I say "dip-thong".)
Last edited by Audiendus on Sat Dec 21, 2013 5:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Dwindle

Postby Perry Lassiter » Sat Dec 21, 2013 1:23 pm

I also say dip, but I've heard the F sound.
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