• elision •
Pronunciation: ê-li-zhên • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: The omission of sounds or syllables from spoken words or discourse, such as pronouncing police as "p'lice" or pollution as "p'lution".
Notes: Today's word is the process noun from the verb elide [ê-laid]. The adjective is elisional. This word is used mainly in linguistics to refer to sounds that drop out of words in the process of linguistic change, usually unaccented vowels. Don't confuse elision with ellipsis, the omission of words that are unnecessary or irrelevant from a sentence, usually indicated by a triplet of periods (...). This group of dots is also called an ellipsis.
In Play: Elision is all around us. Dr. Goodword wrote a long piece on elision called 'Do You Suffer the Embarrassment of LVS?' which is now available in his online office. The elision of initial syllables is very noticeable in the Southern dialects: opossum becomes 'possum, potato becomes 'tater, and alligator is pronounced 'gator. But internal elision of unaccented vowels is rampant in all dialects of English: s'pose for suppose, prob'ly—even prol'ly—for probably, and so on.
Word History: Today's Good Word is derived from the verb elide, which comes via French from Latin elidere "to omit, strike out", based on e(x) "out" + laedere "to strike". We don't know where this root came from, and it does not seem to have developed in other Indo-European languages. We do see it in at least two more English words borrowed from Latin. An allision "crashing into" comes from ad "(up) to" + lædere "to strike", while collision "crashing together" comes from com- "together (with)" + lædere "strike". A moving object crashing into an immoveable object results in an allision. Two moving objects striking each other is a collision. (We are happy that Lew Jury did not elide this word from the list of Good Words he has sent us.)