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Dr. Goodword
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Postby Dr. Goodword » Sat Jan 05, 2013 11:43 pm

• thwart •

Pronunciation: thwart • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, transitive

Meaning: 1. To obstruct, to block, to foil, frustrate, prevent by opposition. 2. To traverse, cross, pass from side to side or straddle.

Notes: Today's Good Word is the only word in English that begins with the consonants THW that is not a variant of another word beginning with WH, such as thwack (from whack) and thwittle (from whittle). This word may also be used as a noun referring to the transverse seat in a small boat and as a preposition or adverb meaning "across, astraddle", though in the latter sense it usually appears with the prefix a: athwart, as to stand athwart the path.

In Play: We best know this word in its sense of obstruction: "Marvin's inability to speak any foreign language thwarts his best efforts to learn about the countries he travels to." As usual, however, we mourn the loss of the original meaning of this word so, as a purely Quixotic gesture, offer this example: "If Lionel promises to help you, make sure he isn't thwarting his fingers behind his back." And, of course, birds known as crossbeaks or crossbills have thwarted beaks.

Word History: This word began its life in Old English as an adverb meaning "from side to side, cross, perverse". It originated as Proto-Indo-European twork-/twerk- "to twist", which also motivated Latin torquere "to twist", the origin of English torque. Apparently torches were originally made of twisted brush for torch is also based on Latin torquere. Sanskrit tarkuh "spindle", Croatian traka "(highway) lane" from Old Slavic traku "band, girdle," and Modern German drechseln "to turn (on a lathe)" are other words from the same PIE root. (Today we thank Marcia Montgomery for allowing nothing to thwart her attempt to send this very Good Word to alphaDictionary.)
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Postby MTC » Sun Jan 06, 2013 9:07 am

"Thwart" is one of a group of related words which has been used to illustrate Sound Symbolism, the idea that sounds themselves have meaning:

"In English, there are many similar groupings of words where there is some underlying resemblance of meaning related to the surface resemblance of the sounds forming the words. Bloomfield(1933) quoted a number of these: examples are such groups as: FIRE FLAME FLARE FLASH FLICKER POINT POKE PIKE PEG PEAK PIERCE PRICK PROD PROBE PRONG HIT HACK HEW HATCHET HASH THROW THRUST THRASH THWACK THWART THUMP THROTTLE SWEEP SWAY SWING SWIRL SWERVE SWOOP SWISH SWITCH SWAT SWIPE SWAB WAG WAGGLE WEAVE WOBBLE WANDER WONDER WADDLE WAVER WAVE. The felt resemblances between these sets of words is apparent and must derive from symbolism in the sounds used - though not necessarily just from the initial letters of the words since one can easily find examples of other words with the same initial letters but belonging to completely different categories of meaning; the resemblance seems to derive from the whole structure of the words in each group." (Emphasis added)

( ... undsmb.htm)

Sound Symbolism makes an interesting subject for discussion. The sounds of onomatopoeic words, of course, imitate their meanings. But beyond that, do certain sounds convey meaning apart from the arbitrary meaning we assign?

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Postby LukeJavan8 » Sun Jan 06, 2013 12:49 pm

Neat article, thanks for posting it.
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Postby Philip Hudson » Sun Jan 06, 2013 7:35 pm

More than a neat article, MTC. I copied it and stored it in 12 point Times Roman so I could read it better. My slow mind needs to cogitate on it more. Sound Symbolism, which I had never heard of before, seems to be onomatopoeia on steroids. I have sympathy for it, but do not pretend to understand its ramifications. Perhaps I shall post again when I have digested the article.
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Postby Brigadininkas » Mon Feb 25, 2013 12:08 pm

Word Thwart sounds almost identically as Lithuanian words "Tverti" - to fence (noun form "Tvora" - the fence). Lithuanian has a group of words with this root. "Tvartas" - the barn, literally means a place to keep cattle which needs to be fenced.

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Postby Perry Lassiter » Mon Feb 25, 2013 5:19 pm

Welcome Bridiginikas! I see you have posted six times and hope you post many more. No one else has accessed Lithuanian, and I suspect you have other lingo at your disposal, which will further our discussions.

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Postby gailr » Mon Feb 25, 2013 9:31 pm

I associated thwart with cross but not twist -- learned something new here. Plans can be thwarted; perhaps that's what makes them gang aft agley? :wink:

Athwart is less common. An essay I read long ago complained about a teacher(?) or editor(?) who rejected sentences such as, "The dog ran across the street." requiring instead, "The canine hastened athwart the thoroughfare."

Also, welcome Brigadininkas!

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Postby Slava » Mon Feb 25, 2013 10:05 pm

gailr wrote:IAthwart is less common. An essay I read long ago complained about a teacher(?) or editor(?) who rejected sentences such as, "The dog ran across the street." requiring instead, "The canine hastened athwart the thoroughfare."

Talk about tushery!
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