More art

The unaccented “be-” prefix comes through our Old English heritage and stands for “about” with many prepositions generalizing to “at or near”  (before, behind, below) and with be- verbs carrying many different meanings of “about” (begird uses the “around” meaning and “bespatter” uses “all-over”).  The OED‘s entry on the be-prefix is absolutely inspiring and I recommend it to anyone who loves the words so much that they are reading a concordance blog.  Among other things,

the force of be- passes over to an object, … Hence it is used to form transitive vbs. on adjectives and substantives

Görlach teaches us that in the 1500s one could add or subtract “be-” as an intensifier or causative just about anywhere one wished.  The OED says further that be- remains “a living element” and may be added even now when appropriate to meaning.  If a living element, then do I count the archaism or obsolescence of the stem?  or of the be-be’d word?  I was once tempted to lemmatize be- words to the form without the prefix.  In doing so, we would lose such beauties as “begone” and “benighted”.  Since we are keeping these, I’ll use the OED‘s classification for the full word, if there is one.  Again, I learn how much of the artist’s touch is required in this work.

Behold, we begin here today.

“be-, prefix.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, March 2015. Web. 7 May 2015.

Görlach, Manfred. Introduction to Early Modern English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991. Print.

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