With Ruth and With Reck

Have you ever taken a look at words that you've used and have taken for granted for years and examined them a little closer? Twisted them, turned them, gutted them, to get a new angle on them? While reading this morning, I happened upon a familiar adjective: ruthless. Looking at it as if I'd never seen it before, I realized it had never once occurred to me that this meant "without ruth." So, I wondered, what does it mean to have or to be with ruth? To wit:

ruth, röth, n. [From rue, comp. truth, from true.] Mercy; pity; tenderness; sorrow for the misery of another; sorrowful or tender regret. [Mainly poetical]—ruthless, röth′ les, a. Having no ruth or pity; cruel; pitiless; barbarous.
(The New Webster Encyclopedic Dictionary of The English Language, Thatcher, Virginia S., Editor-in-Chief; Alexander McQueen, Advisory Editor and Lexicographer. Chicago: Consolidated Book Publishers, 1971, p. 738)

This means, obviously, that rue is the root from which we get ruthless, true, and truth, and this takes us to rue:

rue, rö, v.t.rued, ruing. [A. Sax. hreówan, to rue=D. rouwen, G. reuen, to repent; same root as crude, L. crudus, raw, cruel, L. crudelis. Hence ruth.] To regret; to grieve for; to repent; to repent of and withdraw, or try to withdraw, from (to rue a bargain).—v.i. To have compassion; to become sorrowful, grieved, or repentant.
(The New Webster Encyclopedic Dictionary of The English Language, p. 735)

Ruth and her siblings turned my mind to reckless and his, and the question: What does it mean to have reck?

reck, rek, v.i. [A. Sax. reccan, récan, to reck, regard; cog. O. Sax. rókian, Icel. raekja, O.H.G. róhhian, geruochen, to reck or care; perhaps same root as reckon.] Obs. To care; to mind; to heed; to regard; often followed by of.—v.t. To heed, regard, care for.—It recks (impersonal), it concerns (it recks me not).—reckless, rek′ les, a. Not recking; careless; heedless of consequences; mindless; with of before an object.
(The New Webster Encyclopedic Dictionary of The English Language, p. 698)

I know not about you, but for me these Anglo-Saxon words ring strong and clear, like a sword unsheathed. It recks me that many are reckless in their usage of words and language. Murdering and ruthless villians they are. (Had to say it.)


PRONUNCIATON GUIDE
VOWELS: ā (fate); ä (far); â (fare); a (fat, marry); å (fall); ē (me); e (met, merry); ė (purr, err); ī (pine, deny); i (pin); ō (note); o (not, organ); ö (move, loom, louver); ū (tube, abuse); u (tub, love); ü (bull, book); oi (boy, oil); ou (pound, how). CONSONANTS: ch (chain); CH (Sc. loch, Ger. nacht); g (go); j (job, giblets); ŋ (sing); TH (then); th (thin); w (wig); hw (whig); ks (exercise); zh (azure, genre); z (xylophone, zoo)

2 comment(s):

monstro said...
December 13, 2009 2:46 PM

Very interesting. :D Thanks for sharing these findings, I had never thought about these words.

g d townshende said...
December 13, 2009 6:09 PM

You're welcome. This was, to say the least, a very educational day thanks to this romp through the dictionary. :D

Post a Comment