• Nine-Eleven •
nain-ê-le-vên • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: The terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York in which 2,993 people from 90 nations perished on September 11, 2001. Terrorists also struck the Pentagon in Washington but failed to reach one other unknown target on the same day.
Notes: Today is the anniversary of the worst terrorist attack on US soil in US history. We thought it fitting to point out that the date of that attack has become a proper noun in the English language and a proper lexical memorial for all those who perished in that tragic catastrophe, a memorial of the human mind.
In Play: Today's very Good Word is usually written with numerical symbols, 9/11, just as nine is usually written 9. But this date has become a regular proper noun in the English vocabulary, so it is time we spelled it out. Since it is a proper noun, with no plural because it refers to one specific event, it must be capitalized.
Word History: US English differs from European languages in ordering the numbers in dates by month-day-year, rather than day-month-year, from smallest to largest period. In the US the order is based on the usual expression of dates in the US, i.e. September 11, 2001, rather than in the European style, 11 September 2001. Hence, 9/11 means September 11 in the US whereas it indicates November 9 in Europe. Nine-Eleven, however, means the same everywhere. Eleven is a delightful old oddity in English. In Old English it was endleofan, probably from an older Germanic form ainlif- "eleven", which survived elsewhere as Dutch and German elf "eleven". Ainlif- would have been composed of *ain- "one" + lif-an "to remain, to be over". Thus, eleven originally meant "one left-over" (after ten). Twelve was "two left-over" (after ten).
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